One very common question that I hear over and over is “What should I do in Nassau? Should we stay on the ship? Should we do a port adventure?” There are lots of opinions about Nassau, both good and bad. My goal for this post is not to force my opinion on you, but just to provide you with enough facts to form your own opinion and give you some ideas for port adventures, both those booked through DCL and those not.
Before we get started on options for things to do off the ship, let’s quickly talk about staying on the ship. Many, many people stay on the ship in Nassau. Years ago, fewer people chose this option and thus staying onboard typically resulted in smaller crowds onboard, especially at the pools. However, it seems like staying onboard is getting more and more popular, so don’t assume that the crowds onboard will be smaller on Nassau day. Maybe they will, but you definitely can’t count on it.
Another important topic to address is safety. Nassau has a worse reputation than most ports in terms of safety. Whether this is true or not, I really don’t know. But the reputation is there. The U.S. Department of State offers travel advisories for overseas destinations. Click here to go to their website and you can see the current advisory level for Nassau.
Okay, now about what your choices are if you do want to leave the ship. I have personally only left the ship once in Nassau, and did the DCL Blue Lagoon Beach Day port adventure (more on this later). So, this collection of options below are (with the exception of Blue Lagoon) things that I do not have first-hand experience with, but have either read about or heard about from talking to other people. If you are interested in any of these, I encourage you to do your own research as there is lots of information out there to help you decide and make the best choice for you.
A visit to the Atlantis resort is one of the more popular options in Nassau. It has its pros and cons. I have not personally done this port adventure, but I did stay at the resort way back in 2002 when it was pretty new and about 1/3 the size it is now. I had a great time when I was there. You can book this through DCL (and there are several different options) or go on your own. Let’s start with the pros and cons of visiting Atlantis:
It is relatively safe (i.e. you are unlikely to encounter/be a victim of any criminal activity)
There are a lot of things to do there
It is clean and well-maintained
It is close to the ship
It is very expensive
It can be very crowded, mostly dependent on how many ships are in port that day (click here to check the cruise ship schedule for Nassau)
Many of the water slides have height restrictions so smaller kids will have some limitations
It is huge (so lots of walking)
The food is very expensive
First let’s talk about what your choices are if you want to book Atlantis through DCL. There are different options in terms of water park, beach, touring the resort, animal encounters, etc. Note that the only parts of the resort that you can enter for free are the casino and the shopping area, which is expensive, high-end stores. Instead of typing out all of that information, here are links to the DCL website which you can click on to see details, age restrictions, and prices:
Atlantis Aquaventure (N25)
Atlantis Aquaventure Half Day (only available on select sailings) (N66)
Atlantis Aquaventure and Kayak with Dolphins (N85)
Atlantis Aquaventure and Paddleboard with Dolphins (N86)
Atlantis Aquaventure and Snorkel with Dolphins (N87)
Atlantis Beach Day & Discover Atlantis (N07)
Atlantis Dolphin Cay Dip ‘N Discover and Aquaventure (N27)
Atlantis Dolphin Cay Dip ‘N Discover Interaction and Discover Atlantis (N47)
Atlantis Dolphin Cay Swim in Wonder and Aquaventure (N49)
Atlantis Snorkel the Ruins & Aquaventure (N50)
Discover Atlantis Tour (N05)
Observer at Atlantis Dolphin Cay & Aquaventure (N46)
Observer at Atlantis Dolphin Cay & Discover Atlantis (N51)
Private Cabana at Atlantis (N65)
(I have a guest review of the cabana experience here. Note that in order to book a cabana at Atlantis, you have to also book some type of Aquaventure port adventure. They will not allow you into the cabana area without your Aquaventure admission pass.)
Ultimate Trainer for a Day at Atlantis (N39)
I know the prices above can be quite shocking, but there are also ways to visit Atlantis on your own, not through DCL, and save some money. Here are some options:
You can book a day pass on the Atlantis website and take a taxi to get there and back.
Last I heard, a taxi to Atlantis costs $4 per person, each way and is about a 10 minute ride. Depending on your party size, you will likely have to share a taxi with other parties as the drivers like to completely fill them before leaving. Remember to only used licensed taxi operators for safety. Visit the Atlantis website here to see the day pass options and prices. The prices are significantly cheaper than DCL, but vary by season so you will have to select your date to see prices. Remember that if you do it this way to watch the clock carefully and leave plenty of time to get yourself back to the ship.
Use Marriott Rewards
If you have enough Marriott rewards, you can use them to book a room at the resort and then have access to the grounds, waterpark and beaches at no charge (you will receive 4 wristbands per room booked). But, things like cabanas and animal encounters (that hotel guests have to pay extra for) will still be an extra charge (you can check prices here on the Atlantis website). In order to book a room at Atlantis and pay cash, there is a 2 night minimum so that would not be cheaper. But, I have heard from Marriott reward members who have been able to book only 1 night on points. If you are a Marriott rewards member, you should look into this to see if it will work for you.
The Comfort Suites right next door to Atlantis (within walking distance, but far enough that you will want a stroller for little ones) offers its guests access to the Atlantis Resort’s grounds and waterpark. Once again, cabanas and animal encounters would cost extra. So, you can book a room online in advance, take a taxi there, check in and get your room key cards and then walk over to the Atlantis resort and not even access your room. Note that they will give you a maximum of 4 cards per room reservation. If you have more than 4 people, call the hotel in advance to find out if you can add people for a flat fee (I’ve heard mixed results on this). If not, you would have to purchase a day pass for the extra person/people once you arrive at Atlantis (note that ages 3 and under are free), or in advance online. Room rates vary by season but usually range from $200 – $400 for 1 night (book as far in advance as possible for the lowest rates). Make sure you have the credit card used to make the reservation with you, as well as photo ID because they will ask for it at check in. One you have your cards, you walk over to a certain building at Atlantis (the Comfort Suites people will direct you there) and use your room keys to get your wristbands which will allow you access to the Atlantis grounds.
Note that this method will give you the best savings if there are exactly 4 people in your party. For 2 or 3 people, booking through DCL may be about the same price or cheaper, depending on the rate you get for the room. With 5 people, adding the purchase of the extra wristband at Atlantis may or may not make this method cheaper – you would have to see what type of rate you could get on the room and then do the math.
Note: Atlantis does provide towels, or you can bring your own from the ship (but please bring them back so that DCL continues to offer this service!)
Blue Lagoon is an island a few miles from the cruise port that is only accessible by boat. They offer dolphin/sea lion/stingray encounters, a beach day, or a segway tour. You can book these tours through DCL. Currently, the Blue Lagoon website states that if you are a passenger on Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line or Carnival Cruise Line, that you must book through the cruise line and not on their website. But, they’re relying on the honor system because there’s no stopping people from booking on the Blue Lagoon website and claiming that they are not on one of those cruise lines. I have no first hand reports of people doing this though, so I can’t answer any questions about that. When we were in Nassau on October of 2016, we booked the Blue Lagoon Island Beach Day (N44) through DCL. You can read a full review of our day and my opinions on the port adventure here.
Fun fact: Back in the days of the Big Red Boat, this island was one of the ports that the ship stopped at (they had to tender to shore) and at that time was called Salt Cay.
Here are the options available to book through DCL. Click on the links below for details and prices:
Blue Lagoon Island Beach Day (N44)
Blue Lagoon Island Beach Day – Half Day (only available on select sailings) (N69)
Blue Lagoon Island Dolphin Encounter (N21)
Blue Lagoon Island Dolphin Swim (N41)
Blue Lagoon Island Dolphin/Sea Lion Observer – Must Be Booked With An Animal Encounter (N22)
Blue Lagoon Island Sea Lion Encounter (N40)
Blue Lagoon Island VIP Beach Day – Adults Only (N96)
Blue Lagoon Segway and Beach Safari (N78)
British Colonial Hilton Day Pass
If you are looking for a beach and/or pool day, the British Colonial Hilton is within walking distance of the ship and I have heard pretty good things about it (that the pool is good, the beach is okay). It should take you about 10 minutes to walk there and you can buy day passes on the hotel website or from resortforaday.com. Compare the prices to get the best deal.
Melia Resort Day Pass
The Melia Resort also offers day passes, but is not within walking distance of the ship. It will take a 15 minute cab ride (~$20) to get there. I have heard that it is much nicer than the British Colonial Hilton with good pools and a beach. I can’t find a way to purchase day passes on the resort website, but you can from resortforaday.com, nassauparadiseisland.com, and others. Shop around to get the best deal.
The Graycliff Hotel is a historic hotel in Nassau that is a 10 minute drive from the ship. You can book a day pass here (with the option to add on additional experiences) either directly through the hotel on their website, or through an outside company such as nassauparadiseisland.com. Shop around and compare prices. You can also book a few different port adventures to the Graycliff through DCL:
Graycliff Escape Nassau (N33)
Graycliff Hotel Wine Luncheon (N31)
Graycliff Chocolatier – The Art of Chocolate Making and Factory Tour (N54)
I have heard mixed reviews about the chocolate port adventure. Some people thought it was boring, disorganized, and not worth the money. Others I’ve talked to enjoyed it.
Obviously booking through DCL means they take care of transportation, and if you go on your own then you will have to take a taxi on your own.
The Straw Market is a shopping area right next to the ship. This would be the place to go if you want to briefly get off the ship to buy souvenirs. However, it has a reputation for aggressive vendors so be careful. I have heard reports of people being harassed badly, to not being harassed at all. Check out online reviews, such as these on TripAdvisor, if you want specific examples. The advice I have heard is not to make eye contact and if anyone tries to get you to touch something or place an item on you or your child, refuse firmly or else they may try to make you to buy it.
Junkanoo Beach is a free beach within walking distance of the ship (~15 minutes). I have heard mixed reviews about it, from people saying they had a great time there to people saying they will never go back (mostly complaints about glass in the sand and annoying vendors). Apparently they have recently begun placing security guards here on days that ships are in port which may have helped some. There are restrooms, places to buy food and drinks, and chair/umbrella rentals. Once again, you can read reviews here on TripAdvisor.
Pirates of Nassau Museum
The Pirates of Nassau Museum is located within walking distance of the ship. I have heard that is is a little bit cheesy, but doesn’t take long to walk through and is good for kids. You can read reviews on TripAdvisor here.
There are lots of other options for things to do in Nassau (you can see the complete list of Nassau DCL port adventures here), but the ones listed above are the ones that I have heard the most about. Hopefully this has helped you decide how to spend your day in Nassau!