Port Official Says Nassau Has Failed Cruise Passengers

A local official has called Nassau, in the Bahamas, a failure for cruise guests, but is it really? The answer isn't straightforward.

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In an eye-opening comment, a top official from Nassau Cruise Port said the port has “failed” in providing experiences, services, and value to cruise guests. The claim is an interesting one, but would cruise passengers agree with the reasoning?

Nassau Is a Failure?

According to a report from The Nassau Guardian, the cruise destination has been described as a failure by Nassau Cruise Port Limited Chief Executive Officer Mike Maura Jr. Maura’s remarks, which are quite condemning of the port experience and operational capacity, were part of a panel for the 23rd annual Bahamas Business Outlook economic conference, which took place on January 19, 2023.

“Only by God’s grace, that being the geography, being our water, being our beautiful beaches, our warm weather and our wonderful smiles, are we getting the volume of tourism traffic that we receive, because we fail miserably in our service,” Maura said.

Maura cites an undisclosed “recent survey by cruise lines of regional cruise ports” that indicates Nassau is ranked as next-to-last of 20 ports, outranking only Freeport.

Cruise Ships in the Bahamas
Photo Credit: Brookgardener / Shutterstock

“Nassau cruise port is incapable of providing experiences, services, and value to 26,000 people, we might be able to accommodate 5,000, 6,000, 7000 people,” said Maura. “But that still leaves another 15,000 to 20,000 people saying ‘what can I do, where can I go?’ We get it every single day.”

While the pier area of Nassau has been renovated in recent years to accommodate more cruise vessels with ease as freight traffic was moved elsewhere, Maura claims that local attractions and retail areas have suffered, and have not received the development and upgrades that would make them more attractive to cruise passengers.

He also says that cruise lines themselves are an “obstacle” for the country’s cruise tourism, believing that the cruise lines wish to control the experience rather than permit the nation’s natural appeal to take center stage.

Is the Nassau Cruise Port CEO Right?

Nassau is the fifth busiest passenger cruise port in the world, welcoming more than 3.5 million guests per year. With so many guests visiting the capital city of The Bahamas, how can it be a failure at providing experiences to guests?

Of course, it is true that Nassau can be a very crowded destination, particularly on days when multiple large ships are in port simultaneously. For example, on Saturday, January 28, 2023, the port is scheduled to host six cruise ships. Four are Royal Caribbean vessels – Liberty, Harmony, Mariner, and Brilliance – and they will be joined by Carnival Liberty and Disney Wish.

Together, these ships will bring more than 23,000 guests to the island, all for a few hours of beaches, shopping, dining, and shore tours. At times like these, not all guests may be able to enjoy the tours and experiences they would prefer, as local tour operators may sell out quickly.

Cruise Ships in Nassau, Bahamas
Photo Credit: Brookgardener / Shutterstock

It must be remembered, however, that not all cruise guests choose to get off their ship while in port. Guests who may have visited Nassau recently or frequently may instead prefer to stay aboard the ship to enjoy onboard amenities. This does not mean that Nassau is necessarily a “failure” as Maura claims, only that it doesn’t always appeal to every guest – as no cruise port does.

It may also be true that Nassau could have a greater variety of tour options, particularly focusing on local attractions that offer unique experiences for visitors. Maura claims that local sites like the historical forts and water tower have not been developed into viable, attractive experiences, a move that should be undertaken even if a public-private partnership is necessary.

Yet cruise lines coordinate with local tour operators to offer a wide range of shore tours, including beach breaks, snorkeling, catamaran sailing, dolphin encounters, deep sea fishing, stingray visits, jeeps tours, and historic walking tours, and more.

As for the claim that cruise lines are seeking to control the experience, it is true that a number of cruise lines have leased islands from The Bahamas in order to develop their own private destinations, such as Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day at CocoCay, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Great Stirrup Cay, and Disney Cruise Line’s Castaway Cay.

These private destinations do still bring great economic benefit to The Bahamas, though perhaps not as much as if the country developed its own infrastructure to better attract guests.

Do you agree or disagree with Maura’s claims about Nassau as a failure? Visit the Cruise Hive Boards to join the conversation about this popular port of call!

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