Where are you going?
That’s usually the first question people ask when you tell them you’re going on a cruise and, in many ways, at least when the answer is the Caribbean, it’s sort of the wrong question.
In reality, a better query might be “what ship are you sailing on?” because in many ways, the ship is the destination for Royal Caribbean Group (RCL) – Get Free Report, Carnival Cruise Line (CCL) – Get Free Report, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) – Get Free Report, and even MSC and Virgin Voyages ships sailing to the Caribbean from Florida.
Royal Caribbean has worked hard to change that perception by putting hundreds of millions of dollars into its Coco Cay private island, making it a stop that many people want to visit. MSC and Virgin have not hyped their private destinations, but both offer spectacular beaches (and MSC even has unique overnight stops at its Ocean Cay island).
Still, many Caribbean itineraries include both Cozumel and Nassau, two ho-hum stops for experienced cruisers. Both stops have their charms. Nassau has a lovely beach that’s walkable from the port while Cozumel offers lots of all-inclusive beach excursions at affordable prices.
Cozumel also has a well-developed port that offers the shopping, live entertainment, and a mix of local and chain restaurants that cruise passengers expect when they get off the ship. That’s not something Nassau offers.
The current port in Nassau forces passengers to walk a gauntlet of vendors and women trying to braid your hair. It’s right in the heart of the city, near Nassau’s famous straw market, but it’s not an area that feels all that safe or inviting.
That, however, is about to change as Nassau is getting closer to unveiling a new $300 million cruise port.
Nassau Welcomes a Lot of Cruise Ships
The covid pandemic devastated Nassau, which depends on tourists to drive its economy. Basically, that stopped for over 18 months while the virus closed down the cruise lines and even shut down flights from the U.S. for a period. Even when things reopened, health visas were required and business sort of trickled back as the first cruise ships that docked had very low passenger counts.
Nassau also saw businesses close during the pandemic and many be slow to reopen. It was a very bleak time for the island nation, which also had to deal with the health crisis caused by covid, but the country’s leadership did not forget what drives its economy.
Nassau Cruise Port has been completely transformed during the last couple of years at the cost of some $300 million. The project is now in the final phases of completion, with the port announcing the official opening will be at the end of May 2023.
Making Nassau a Destination
Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and MSC sail to Nassau from multiple Florida ports, often having more than one ship there in a single day. Norwegian, MSC, and Virgin don’t quite have that some density of ships, but they all stop in Nassau regularly. The revamped port may make that a much more attractive destination.
“At the moment, some three hundred workers are putting the final touches on the Nassau Cruise Port area, which will be able to handle three Oasis-class cruise ships and a total of six cruise ships on the same day. Changes to the docks and guest areas mean that passenger capacity will increase from 20,000 to around 33,000 passengers per day,” Cruisehive shared.
The revamped port will include a sixth ship berth and an entertainment venue that will also serve local residents.
“There will be a Junkanoo museum, event & entertainment spaces, a 3,500-person Amphitheatre, a living coral exhibit, stores owned and operated by locals, and new local food and beverage facilities,” the website added.
Royal Caribbean, in a completely unrelated move, has also been developing its own private beach on Paradise Island, a short ride from the Nassau port.
Nassau and Cozumel are close rivals to claim the title of “busiest cruise port in the world.” Cozumel currently holds that crown, but the port expansion could tip things in Nassau’s favor.