Paradise Island and Sightseeing Tour
Highlight: Explore the island highlights while learning about the Bahamian culture and history on this Paradise Island and Sightseeing Tour Nassau, Bahamas. Our tour guide, Patrick, provided an excellent narrated tour of the sites and was genuinely proud and eager to discuss the Bahamas. The tour stopped at all the locations listed in the description, providing ample time for photo ops, but little else. This shore excursion was an easy way to see the main sites on the island, without the hassle of finding your own transportation to and from the locations.
Welcome to Nassau, Bahamas
What’s Missing: The tour is advertised as being about two hours. At the onset, Patrick indicated that the tour would be about 2 to 2.5 hours. Flash forward over 3.5 hours later, we still had not returned to the port! While it was great that there was extra time allotted, it did make for some scheduling issues for other planned activities on the cruise. Part of the reason we booked the tour was based on the duration. If you are considering this tour, be advised it may run longer than you expect, so plan accordingly.
Main Takeaway: For first time visitors to New Providence Island and Nassau, the Paradise Island and Sightseeing Tour will give you a nice overview. While you will not spend too much time at any of the sites, you will get to experience many attractions which many help you decide what you want to do and see next time you are in the Bahamas. Many cruises stop at this popular port so getting an introduction to theses attractions might be the perfect excursion for those new to the Bahamas, but veteran cruisers may be a bit bored on this excursion.
A View of the Island of New Paradise
Welcome to the Bahamas
A popular stop, especially on short cruises, Nassau, Bahamas is really two destinations in one-the island itself and Paradise island, the home to the world famous Atlantis Resort. Your cruise ship is sure to offer excursions to Atlantis, but beware as many of them receive negative reviews, with complaints ranging from not enough time to engage in the activities to poor value.
View of Atlantis from the Port
In our investigations, we found that an excursion for 2 adults to the water park in Atlantis was roughly the same price as booking a two night stay at the hotel, which would include admission to the water park and other surrounding attractions. Somehow, I was able to convince the Princess that we should do a different excursion, and book a future trip to Atlantis instead.
Thus, the decision was made to do an island tour. The only option available for our cruise was the Paradise Island and Sightseeing Tour, which gave us about 30 minutes at Atlantis, so we could get a glimpse of the resort without paying the high price of admission.
Arriving in Nassau, Bahamas
Scheduled to arrive around noon, the Enchantment of the Seas was planned to spend 12 hours in port, leaving at midnight of the same day. Pulling into port, we could see that there were already two ships docked-one Carnival and one Disney Cruise Line. After a few minutes, an announcement was made that we were free to go ashore, so we headed out to meet the tour at the designated time, right outside the ship.
Ships in Port During our Time on Nassau, Bahamas
The Port of Nassau is easy to navigate, even with multiple ships docked. Our tour guide was holding a sign, so he was easy to find. One reason we prefer organized tours through the cruise company is the convenience of finding your tour operator.
Once all parties were checked in, the group was escorted out of the port, and the somewhat large group was divided into two buses with our group comprised of 16 total travelers. We met our guide Patrick and were ready to get this island tour underway.
Fort Fincastle and the Queen’s Staircase
Exiting the port area, you are on Bay street, a main business and shopping area with all of your typical stores. The Princess wanted to return to this area to shop later, but those plans were altered due to the extended time of this tour.
Parliament Buildings in Nassau, Bahamas
Throughout the drive, Patrick discussed the history of the island and its independence from Great Britain as we passed notable sights like the House of Parliament and the Princess Margaret Hospital. We did not stop at any of these buildings, so attempts to grab pictures were difficult. If you are interested in getting a better perspective of these places, you could go by foot or hire a private taxi to drive around the city.
Our first stop on this tour was the Queen’s Staircase and Fort Fincastle.
DB Making His Way up the Queen’s Staircase
The 66 stairs of this staircase are constructed of coral rock and took years for 600 slaves to carve using only a hammer and chisel. Of course, I made it a point to run up and down the stairs for a photo-op. A little exercise on vacation is not a bad thing! There was also a gentleman there who was more than happy to take pictures and provide basic facts about the stairs.
Exterior of Fort Fincastle
Fort Fincastle costs a nominal fee to enter, which was not included in our tour price. The fort is small, and there is a guide inside describing the history of the fort and the surrounding area. Inside the fort, we were able to grab a few panoramic shots and a few selfies “locked” in the prison cells and “firing the cannon”. It would not be a stop at a fort without me acting like a kid.
“Firing” a Cannon at Fort Fincastle
On To Fort Charlotte
After about 25 minutes at our first stop, our next stop was Fort Charlotte, the largest fort on the island. During the drive to this fort, the bus passed government buildings, the Royal Bahamas Police Headquarters, and the Island Treasury. We also drove by many historic churches, but again, there was no time for picture taking.
We did stop briefly at the Government House. Through the bus window, the Princess was able to get a picture of the statue of Christopher Columbus that adorned the entrance to the mansion.
Governor’s House in Nassau, Bahamas
We also passed the famous GrayCliff restaurant, which according to our guide is the best restaurant on the island. This is also open to a chocolate factory and cigar factory. Another potential place to visit during our next stop in Nassau.
Our tour guide tempted the group with a stop at the John Watling’s Distillery, a rum distillery at which I am sure Patrick would have stopped if he could’ve gotten a unanimous decision, but a decision could not be made on the fly, so the bus continued on to Fort Charlotte.
National Art Gallery of the Bahamas
Continuing the drive to Fort Charlotte, the tour passed the National Art Gallery and the Junkanoo Museum. Similar to Carnival that is celebrated in South America (think Mardi Gras in New Orleans), Junkanoo is a large festival that is held during the Christmas season with costumes, parades, food, and drinks. The term Junkanoo is used throughout the Bahamas, including the cruiser favorite Junkanoo Beach.
An Unexpected Rum Festival
Passing other notable Nassau sites including a cemetery housing the first Prime Minister Sir Lynden Pindling, we finally arrived at Fort Charlotte, only to discover that a Rum Festival was occurring. This lead to some confusion about admission to the Fort, but after paying another small fee, we were finally able to enter.
A Rum Festival at Fort Charlotte
Don’t get me wrong, the Rum Festival was full of food, characters, and of course rum, and looked like fun, but we were not expecting the event. We were only allotted 30 minutes to explore, which was not enough time to enjoy the festival.
We essentially made a loop around the internal perimeter of the Fort and that was all. So, we will definitely make a return trip to this fort in the future as it has all of the great features of a fort- a moat, dungeons, and over forty cannons! Built in the late 18th century, the fort has never seen a battle, so she is ripe for discovery during your stop in the Bahamas.
More to Explore in Fort Charlotte in Nassau, Bahamas
Paradise Island and Atlantis
Exiting the Fort now behind schedule, we drove down to the beach area, passing the Fish Fry, a street full of restaurants serving traditional Bahamian food. If you have time to go to this area to eat, Patrick recommends Twin Brothers. Next time, we will give this place a try and report back.
You Can See the Cruise Ships from the Beach
Passing this strip, there was a 10 minute stop at a beach to get some photos of the port and ships in the distance. Unfortunately, our camera’s self -timer did not want to cooperate, so a selfie of us with the ships in the distance could not be had!
With the tour already over 2.5 hours at this point, the bus headed to Paradise Island, passing the Bahamas Rum Cake Factory. Looking at the distances between these locations, many of them are walkable from the port or could be easily accessible by taxi.
Once we crossed the bridge to Paradise Island, the Atlantis Towers were visible in the horizon. Condos start at only $4 million to own, and there are other rooms like the “Michael Jackson” suite that can be reserved for $25,000 a night (there is a minimum four nights).
Our Stop at Atlantis Resort
The resort is large, and our guide dropped us off at the entrance of the Coral Towers with instructions to be back in thirty minutes. Now, the tour was going to be officially over three hours long.
Center of Atlantis Casino
If you have ever been to a resort casino in Vegas, Atlantis looks very similar. It is really just a glorified casino. Without staying at Atlantis or paying for a day pass, you have very limited access to the grounds-essentially the inside of some hotels and the casino.
We did walk outside to attempt to get pictures of the Lagoon area and the beach, but multiple times we were stopped by security. Two of our fellow passengers reported that they did manage to sneak by security. I guess the Princess and I are not that sly!
There Was Not Much We Could See in Atlantis
So with nowhere else to go and not wanting to spend any money in the casino, we started to make our way back to the meeting point a few minutes early. We walked around a small area of the Marina, which also has restricted access.
Back at the Port of Nassau, Bahamas
Finally, after about 45 minutes at Atlantis, our bus made the quick drive back to the pier. This is the first time one of our tours ran significantly longer than advertised. With some other sightseeing plans and our early dinner, the Princess was not happy that our itinerary had to be altered. Oh well, it was a quick loop around the pier to buy an authentic Bahamian shell ornament for our vacation tree and back to the ship.
Have you visited Nassau, Bahamas and done an island tour? What is your favorite shore excursion at this port of call? Drop us an anchor below to help your fellow cruisers find the perfect tour during their next stop at this island.