A record-breaking number of cruise passengers visited the Nassau Cruise Port in The Bahamas in the first half of 2023, surpassing 2019 records and showing the strong growth of cruising and the influence of the newly renovated port facilities.
With positive visits forecast for the rest of the year, Nassau may even become the single most popular cruise port in the world by the end of the year.
Nassau Welcomes 2.2 Million Visitors – So Far!
Nassau, the capital city of The Bahamas, is the most popular cruise port in the Caribbean, and continues to shatter passenger records in 2023, with 2,256,925 visitors already calling on the port through June 30.
This breaks the previous visit record, set prior to the pandemic, with 2,011,754 guests visiting during the first six months of 2019. This comes just as the summer is heating up for cruise travel, with multiple ships calling on the port almost daily for the next few months.
“Occupancy remains strong at 109 percent and bookings for the remainder of 2023 forecast a strong yearend result,” said Mike Maura, Jr., the port’s chief executive.
At this rate, Nassau may break four million cruise visitors before the end of the year, dramatically higher than the 3.2 million total passengers that visited in 2022, and even higher than 2019’s 3.9 million passengers.
Multiple Day Records Broken
Port of Nassau has already broken several single-day visitor records in 2023. On January 5, the port welcomed 25,393 guests at once, then broke that record just three days later on January 8 with a staggering 26,396 guests.
On February 27, 2023, the one-day record was shattered yet again when six ships from four different cruise lines visited Nassau, bringing 28,554 guests to the tropical destination.
Two of the ships in port that day were Oasis-class vessels from Royal Caribbean International: Wonder of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas, ranked as the first and third largest ships in the world, respectively.
With the largest vessels from multiple cruise lines scheduled to make calls on Nassau throughout the year, it is possible the one-day record will continue to be broken in the next few months, depending on the dock schedules and exact occupancies of each vessel, particularly whether the ships are sailing over 100% capacity with third, fourth, and fifth berths filled with groups and families.
For example, Carnival Cruise Line’s Mardi Gras is bringing its 5,282 guests to Nassau on a regular basis, while Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Wish is bringing its more than 5,500 guests to Nassau twice each week on 3- and 4-night Bahamas sailings from Port Canaveral.
New Port Facilities Increasing Capacity
Phase 1 of the new cruise port opened in Nassau at the end of May after three years of development and a $300 million (USD) investment. This has opened a sixth berth at the 11-acre port, permitting even more ships to dock simultaneously, with revitalized facilities to welcome and engage guests.
The port features a Junkanoo museum, local Bahamian retailers and artisans, a cultural amphitheater, and more to provide a distinctive Bahamian flair.
The new berth is also equipped for Oasis-class vessels, permitting the port to welcome as many as three of these massive vessels at once, increasing overall port capacity numbers to more than 30,000 guests per day.
“We anticipate our traffic numbers for 2023 to exceed pre-pandemic levels with about 4.2 million visitors,” said Maura. “In 2019, which was the busiest year for us to date, we had 3.85 million visitors. For 2024, we already have 4.5 million confirmations.”
Of course, itinerary changes and port cancellations are always possible, and even though more than 4 million visitors are anticipated, the height of the Atlantic hurricane season from mid-August through late September could disrupt those projected figures if storms impact Bahamas-bound cruises or the port itself.
Should Nassau Cruise Port achieve the anticipated 4.2 million guests in 2023, it is possible the port will take over from Port Canaveral as the world’s busiest cruise port, though the popular Florida homeport is also welcoming more guests than ever before and projecting even higher totals for the years to come.