- JoAnn Gustave
4 hours in Nassau
Updated: Dec 10, 2021
Without an overnight stay or a planned excursion, you can pretty much feel like a cruise port stop is rushed and unpleasant to say the least. My secret is simple, do your research before you get off the ship and know what you're interested in!! I had been to the Bahamas before and did not want to do the typical sightseeing tours so I decided to wander on my own when our ship docked in Nassau yesterday.
4 hours is all I had and I was going to stroll through Nassau as if I had all the time in the world. Sure, I could've booked a tour and hopped on a horse driven carriage around town but that was of no interest to me. My sister and I wanted to meet the people and that is exactly what we did.
As soon as we got off the ship, she had me film a couple of videos for her new vlog, which you should all be subscribed to by now Gou t with Annie and walked right up to the visitor's kiosk at the pier. There I was offered a guide with maps, shops and restaurant recommendations.
After a 10 minute walk up the street, we discovered the beautiful "Queen Staircase", also referred to as "The 66 steps". The staircase, made of solid limestone rock, was hand-carved by slaves between 1793 and 1794 and is considered a major landmark in Nassau. In the 19th century the steps were named in honor of Queen Victoria, who signed a declaration to abolish slavery on her ascension to the throne in 1837.
We arrived to the staircase and were greeted by a little boy playing the drums and singing at the bottom of the steps. He told me what he remembered of the history and showed me where a tunnel had been buried. I had previously read about it but I let him tell me because I could sense the pride in his eyes and he was just so charming.
When my sister and I told him we were from Haiti, he ran and grabbed another boy whose grandparents were from the same island. I asked him politely: "Ou pale Kreyol? Do you speak Kreyol?"; he didn't but he was happy to hear us speak it.
A young girl was also part of the pack; she offered to walk me up the stairs but I declined and let her put her "Bahamian crown" on my head instead. It was a feather head piece typically worn by carnival dancers on Junkanoo, a parade that happens every Boxing day and New Year's day in the Bahamas.
When we were done chatting with the kids, my sister and I eventually made it up the steps and walked up to Fort Fincastle but did not go in. We did some shopping instead at a small street market outside of the fort. The vendors were very nice and not at all aggressive (even though I got ripped off buying a straw hat but I had no strength to bargain that day).
We met a Haitian lady who had left the country some years ago with her husband to raise a family in the Bahamas. She told us about the situation of fellow Haitians living there today and how arduous her path to citizenship had been. I will not go into the politics of it but the situation of any undocumented immigrant of color around the world is not particularly great. You do what you have to do in order to survive and provide for your loved ones. I am always amazed by the resilience of the Haitian people who are displaced around the world and how they manage to carry their sense of humor with them and are so grateful for life regardless of their situation.
As soon as we left the market, we walked back to the port area, caught the number 10 bus and headed to the Fish Fry.
What makes you think that I would not talk about food on this post?
Food is a universal love language! At least in my family it is. And even when I cannot count how many times I've eaten conch in my life and how many forms of it I have had (grilled is the best way to eat conch by the way), my sister and I just had to have conch salad in the Bahamas and so we did. We also had fritters and some good old Sands beer.
Annie chatted up a storm with the owner of the restaurant who, you've guessed it right, was also Haitian and we witnessed a myriad of tourists parade in and out of the doors within the hour and a half we were there. I took advantage of the free Wi-Fi and Facetimed with my son back home and headed back to town after we had had enough conch in our system.
Back at the pier, I picked up a few more souvenirs before heading back to the ship and retiring to my stateroom. I know that I did not get a true Bahamas experience this time around but my heart was full and I was content. I'm sure that no one truly gets a complete immersive experience at a 4 hour port stop unless you are willing to be on a go go go schedule and that was not in my plans.
I got a taste of the island, put my hand on a piece of history, shared a ride with the people and for all of it I am happy!
What about you? What was your experience like in Nassau? Please share in the comments below.