Saturday, March 19, 2022

[NEW PROVIDENCE] A Day in Downtown Nassau

I’ve been eyeing Nassau for some time now, checking out flights and Airbnbs available. The only thing stopping me was the visa application process, which I actually went through then find out was unnecessary for cruise passengers. In any case, you NEED a visa if you are FLYING to the Bahamas. Good luck with that. Airbnb options were also kind of limited and pricy, so I thought if ever I fly to Nassau, I will probably just splurge on two or three nights at Atlantis.

Nah, just go on a cruise. Your accommodation will be nice on the ship, and you don’t have to apply for a visa. If not, then go splurge and book a room at Atlantis. I don’t know how I discovered that resort. I might have seen it in a film back then. What I do know is that I have always associated that image with the Bahamas. True enough, seeing it in real life does feel a bit imposing, what with its resort complexes dominating the skyline of Paradise Island from across the capital.

You also see it from the cruise ship, albeit a bit smaller from afar. If you go on a cruise ship and decide to check out the resort, you can actually purchase a day pass for that. Remember that the cruise ship usually docks at around 8 AM and you must normally be back onboard by 5 PM. The Cuban/Venezuelan couple I shared my dining table with at the cruise ship decided to go for that option, which meant leaving the ship as soon as it was allowed to maximize the time. Me? No plans. I will just take a leisurely stroll.

My day in Nassau started at around lunch time after taking advantage of the free buffet brunch on the ship. There is no passport control at the port of Nassau AT ALL. The government people there wear the same uniform with Bahamas Tourism logos and stuff making them easy to identify. They just usher the throngs of people coming out of the cruise ships into the streets. Just flash them your sea pass along with your passport and you are good to go. Nobody will check for visas. Trust me.

What happened next was an unorganized stroll of the capital. The street running parallel to the dock has plenty of souvenir shops, restaurants, and cafes. This is also the most jampacked part of downtown because of the cruise tourists coming in and out. I saw an ad for a boat ride to Atlantis for $5 there at the port. As for me, I just decided to walk. Downtown Nassau’s grid system layout is easy to follow, and you just have to look at the horizon for buildings of interest to figure out where to go next.

Head west and walk for around 20 minutes to go to Junkanoo Beach. This is New Providence’s northern coast, so technically every edge of the island is a beach. There are nice views at Junkanoo, the type where resort buildings are juxtaposed with the docked cruise ships and the Caribbean with different shades of blue in the background. This is popular and tends to be full. If you don’t want to stay, it’s time to head south or east, depending on where you want to go.

Atlantis is farther east on Paradise Island, linked to the rest of New Providence by a bridge which you can traverse on foot. It is a long way from the dock, though, around 40 minutes. If you don’t really have anything better to do, I’d say walk like I did to get a good feel of the city. You can cross all the way to Atlantis or stop at the highest point of the bridge at the middle for a better vantage point for your photos and videos. From there, you will have a good view of Atlantis, downtown, and the cruise ships.

As for other tourist attractions, the pink parliament building with Queen Victoria’s monument in front is just a few blocks away from the dock and not as busy as I thought it would be. Farther down south, you can climb up a hill via what they call the Queen’s Steps. You end up at what remains of Fort Fincastle after that steep ascent. There are souvenir shops lined up there, several of which accept credit cards. From up there you also get a good view of the cruise ships and Atlantis to the right.

If you don’t want to DIY, you can always book one of the many excursions offered by your cruise line. Royal Caribbean had several on offer all throughout the day and they sold out kind of fast. I didn’t feel the need to book any, though, given how downtown Nassau is so compact and not difficult to explore. If you want other activities like snorkeling or visiting some islands, then I suppose those onshore excursion packages will be worth your buck. At least, you won’t have to worry about details anymore.

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