After a decent breakfast buffet at Enchanted Garden on the second morning of our 3-night Bahamian cruise aboard the Disney Dream (click here to read our cruise report from the first day), we disembarked at Nassau. We had no Port Adventures booked, nor had we done any research on what to do.
I’ll admit up front that the Caribbean is easily my least favorite travel region in the world. I’ve spent a couple of weeks on both Grand Cayman and Jamaica, and neither did a ton for me. There were beautiful and interesting aspects, to be sure, and I always love experiencing new places, but they just weren’t for me.
Still, I wanted to see Nassau–the real Nassau, not Senor Frogs and the other touristy stuff right by the port. I’ve heard a lot of complaints about Nassau from others who have visited via Disney Cruise Line. While there’s a kernel of truth to at least some of these complaints, the emphasis there should be on kernel.
There are certainly a ton of street vendors right along the street you first encounter when entering Nassau, but it’s easy to pass by them. It’s not as if they force anyone to buy anything. This area is a tourist trap, but it’s a small part of Nassau.
Then there are the complaints about scams. The easiest way to not be scammed is to not make any stupid purchases. So many of these horror stories start out with, “the deal was too good to pass up…” Well, that’s exactly why you pass it up.
Speaking of which…to my surprise, Disney Cruise Line has some sort of business relationship with Diamonds International, a company that doesn’t exactly have the best customer reviews. Even if they did, it rubbed me the wrong way to hear about Diamonds International several times aboard the cruise (there were even reps on the ship).
I get that some people on cruises like to purchase jewelry. That doesn’t mean the rest of us want any part of our experience subverted into an infomercial for diamonds. Disney Cruise Line is a premium experience with commensurate pricing, not something that needs to be subsidized with sponsorships from jewelers.
Perhaps I’m biased by my personal opinion of this type of jewelry retailer (they’re right up there with lawyers who advertise on billboards), but it just felt sleazy. I was surprised and disappointed Disney is lending their seal of approval–which is exactly what they are doing by allowing Diamonds International on the boat–to this operation.
This might seem like a minor, insignificant thing to some (many? most?) of you reading this, and maybe it is, but it’s my biggest complaint about our cruise.
On the plus side, if this is the biggest complaint, you know the experience went pretty well.
Back to common complaints about Nassau, with the last being crime. The crime rate in the Bahamas, particularly opportunistic crimes, is definitely concerning. So are the crime rates in Chicago, Boston, Denver, and even Anaheim. I wouldn’t hesitate to visit any of those places.
I think people have a tendency to over-emphasize the “dangers” of places that are unfamiliar or where people look differently than them. Perhaps my threshold for risk is high, but there are very few places in the world where the crime rate would give me pause or dissuade me from visiting.
In any case, we started by grabbing a map as we got off the ship, quickly blew through the touristy district, and then walked to the farthest point on the map.
I don’t think it was even a mile walk, but it was a dramatically different side of Nassau than what we would’ve seen had we not ventured past the main stretch where all of the shops and restaurants were.
What we saw along the way was a lot of beautiful, pastel-colored colonial architecture. Many of the buildings could’ve definitely used some rehabilitative work, but they were still fascinating to see.
Just wandering around, looking at the architecture and historical landmark placards stating the significance of each place was the highlight for me.
My favorite buildings of those we visited were the Government House, the Nassau Public Library, Parliament Square, the various forts.
There were plenty of other buildings, the names of which I don’t know, that were also interesting. Just walking around looking at the city was a fun way to spend around 3 hours.
We walked up the Queen’s Staircase, which I found to be overrated. This is touted as Nassau’s most-visited point of interest; I was much more impressed with Fort Fincastle above the stairs.
In both cases, the underlying history of these locations is more interesting than the substantive experience at the locations.
While we were around Fort Fincastle, we actually saw a shore excursion tour taking place there. Come to find out, Disney Cruise Line does a guided tour of these and other locations we walked past…for $42/person!
Maybe it’s just because I’m cheap, but it seems odd to me to pay money for things you could do yourself. Part of the experience of being in another country is exploring it, stumbling upon random places, hidden gems, etc.
Taking a guided tour would undermine that aspect of the experience, I think–but that’s just me.
After completing our walking tour, we headed into the more touristy area, where we found a Dunkin’ Donuts that had free WiFi. We hung out there for maybe 30 minutes–because the Bahamas also runs on Dunkin–getting work done before we headed back to the ship.
It was really something to see so many cruise ships at the port in Nassau. On any given day, I wonder what the ratio of tourists to locals is.
Overall, we had an enjoyable time exploring Nassau, but I had the same impression of it as I have of Kingston, Jamaica or George Town, Grand Cayman: having enough rich history to explore once, but not places I’m clamoring to revisit. There are plenty of other things to do in Nassau, including beautiful tropical beaches and Atlantis, but we weren’t really interested in either. We found Nassau fun to wander, and we always enjoy in-person learning about other countries, so that was the highlight for us. If you’re taking a Disney cruise that stops in Nassau, it’s worth getting off the ship to see Nassau for at least a couple of hours, but I’m not giving the port any sort of resounding endorsement. On Page 2, we’ll cover the rest of day 2 on the Disney Dream…