One of the challenges when planning a cruise vacation is maximizing your time in port. Some itineraries allow an entire day – from sunrise to sunset in some ports – while other itineraries have cruise ships leaving the port in the early afternoon.
We’ve visited Nassau a handful of times with our kids but we’ve yet to cruise on a ship that stays in port past 2:30 PM. We’ve only seen Atlantis from afar but have never been able to visit because of this early all-aboard time.
The Aquaventure Water Park opens at 9 AM but the slides don’t open until 10 AM so we would only be able to spend 3 to 4 hours at most at Atlantis.
If you’re headed to Nassau via cruise ship and have an early afternoon all-aboard time like we have had in the best, here’s some of our kid-friendly and wallet-friendly recommendations:
1. Beach Time in Nassau
Beaches are a big draw for many families visiting Nassau. If you’re looking for an Atlantis Aquaventure Day Pass alternative, here are our top three family-friendly beaches:
Junkanoo Beach – This free city beach is popular with cruisers and locals because of the proximity to the cruise ship docks. There are multiple food and drink vendors, a beach area for those who want to enjoy some time in the sand and chairs and umbrellas available for rent.
There are also washrooms available at Junkanoo Beach. This is a public beach and is fairly crowded when there are multiple ships in port. If you’re looking for a quiet day with calm waters this may not be the beach for you.
British Colonial Hilton Nassau – This resort is right next to Junkanoo Beach and offers day passes for cruise passengers for $100/adults and $50/child 6 to 12 years of age. Children 5 and under are free. You can purchase day passes from the front desk the day of your visit.
Day passes include a food and beverage credit – $40 for adults, $20 for kids – at the hotel’s bar and restaurant. Day pass holders get access to the private beach, pool, towels, beach chairs, umbrellas and non-motorized sports equipment.
Blue Lagoon Island – If you’re interested in a relaxing beach day with the option of playing on water inflatables or participating in a sea lion or dolphin encounter, then a day at Blue Lagoon Island might be the best choice for your family.
This private island is owned by a local family and beach day passes for Blue Lagoon Island are offered as a port excursion by many cruise lines.
Our family of four visited Blue Lagoon Island in 2014 when our youngest was a toddler and we all loved it. We spent some time meeting the dolphins, petting a sea lion and napping in a beach hammock.
2. Pirates of Nassau Museum
The Pirates Museum of Nassau is a must-do if you have school aged children or a family of pirate fans. It’s just a few blocks from port so you can easily walk there if you want to skip the taxi line. This interactive museum documents the history and life of Bahamian pirates. Learn what life is like on a pirate ship and practice talking like one.
The wax figures are really well done some kids may be frightened by them – just a warning! – but the museum is good for those looking for a break from the sun. Aside from the front desk staff, you’re pretty much on a self-guided tour when you visit this museum but you can walk through the museum at your own pace.
3. Ardastra Gardens Zoo & Conservation Centre
The Ardastra Gardens Zoo & Conservation Centre is a great half day option for families with toddlers, preschoolers or school-age children.. As the only zoo in the Bahamas, you can check out endangered animals, feed lorry parrots and march with the flamingos.
We really enjoyed the flamingo show and the kids loved taking photos with them at the end of the show. Walking paths around the zoo are stroller friendly so if you’re traveling with a little one, I’d recommend bringing it with you to the zoo.
You could easily combine this with a trip to the beach as the zoo is on the small side. It would take at most 2.5 hours to walk through the entire place and to see all the animals.
4. Sightseeing Tour
One way to maximize your time in port is to book a private sightseeing tour. This is what we chose to do on our most recent visit. We had a travel group of 9 – 6 adults and 3 kids – and booked a 3-hour tour with Cheryl’s Bahamas Taxi.
I booked this tour about a month prior to our arrival because we needed a tour company that had car seats and booster seats available for the kids.
We originally planned some time at the beach but the day we visited was quite cold and windy so instead, Cheryl’s husband took us to the pier to see the market and try some local fare.
What a great suggestion on his part! The fishermen showed us their big catch of the day. These huge rock lobsters were headed to nearby hotels and were being sold for $20 USD each for those interested in taking it home to cook for dinner.
We tried the conch salad and it was delicious! Tangy, salty and spicy. It was really good with the homemade Bahama Mama (rum punch) that Cheryl had prepared for us.
Don’t worry, Craig had bottled water and soda in the back for the kids. The rum punch was just for the adults in our group and it was a lot – we weren’t able to finish it! HAHA!
Have you visited Nassau with your family? What are your top kid-friendly recommendations for families visiting for the day?