Cruise ships also sail from Charleston to Nassau. Freeport, Nassau, and private islands of the Bahamas like Half Moon Cay or Castaway Cay are the most popular cruise ship destinations. Although the Bahamas have over 700 islands, less than 50 are inhabited.
I went on my first cruise in 1967, with a group from my high school senior class. About 90 of us rode a bus from our south Georgia homes to Miami and then did a three day cruise to Nassau. We sailed on the Eastern Cruise Lines' Bahama Star. (Over 40 years later, my heart goes out to all the adults who were on that cruise ship with us!) I remember marveling at the spectacular colors of the Atlantic Ocean, the fantastic beaches, and the sights and sounds of this "foreign" city. It was my first trip outside of the United States (other than to Canada), and I have been hooked on international travel since then.
The Bahamas are only 50 miles from the United States. The 700 islands stretch over 100,000 square miles of sea from the eastern coast of Florida to the northern coast of Cuba and Haiti. The Bahamas derive their name from the Spanish baja mar, which means shallows.
Thousands of cruisers are in Nassau every weekend. Nassau is a perfect combination of British heritage and colonialism along with modern resorts and picturesque beaches. Nassau is located on the island of New Providence, which is about 21 miles long and 7 miles wide. The city is compact and can be explored easily on foot in a few hours. Cruise ships dock at piers on the north side of the island, a 10 minute walk from the center of the city. The modern pier, known as Prince George Wharf, is only one block from famous Bay Street, the main shopping street of Nassau. When your cruise ship docks, you will find plenty of taxis waiting to take you around the island.
When you are in Nassau for the day, you can either take a shore excursion sponsored by the cruise ship, book an excursion on your own, or use the time to explore the city, the island or a beach. Because of the tropical location, many tours are water-related. Boat trips, a tour of Nassau or the island, snorkeling or diving, golf, swimming with dolphins, or exploring on a submarine are all popular tours. Many cruise passengers buy a day pass to the huge Atlantis Resort on nearby Paradise Island. There is certainly something for everyone!
If you decide to not take an organized shore excursion, stop off at the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism near Rawson Square. They can help give you a really good sense of what to see and do in Nassau. You can't miss it--you will see it when you exit the cruise ship pier. They can provide maps, directions, and other information. If you are exploring the city on foot, it certainly helps to know what you are looking at!
Nassau is a wonderful place to visit for a short getaway cruise or as a port of call on a longer one. It's close to the U.S., but is "foreign" enough to be very interesting. Because of the thousands of visitors, there are many opportunities for activities, but the streets are often packed with tourists. All of the major cruise lines, along with many smaller ones and yacht charters, include Nassau as a port of call. I think you will enjoy the colonial history, the turquoise waters, and the many options for fun.More on Nassau in the Bahamas > >