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Pre and Post Cruise Nassau Tips


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I'm an old fan of Matt from his WDW Today days. I posted the info below on the RCCL thread over on the Dis, but I thought it might be helpful here.

I’ve been visiting Nassau and Atlantis nearly annually for almost 20 years. Staying at one of Nassau’s resorts for a night or two is nothing like being a cruiser on an excursion. On the two cruises I’ve been on with stops in Nassau, I didn’t get off the ship. But I love my annual vacation to Atlantis, and I bring friends and/or family along nearly every trip. Here are some tips if you’ve only been to Nassau as a cruiser on an excursion.

Flights:

Pre-covid, American, Delta, United, Southwest, and JetBlue generally ran flights from their major hubs on weekdays. On weekends, they’ll offer a few more non-stops from other cities during busy times. Plus a few other smaller a or international line :https://nassaulpia.com/flight-info/airlines-serving-lpia/.

Most flights from the U.S. arrive in Nassau between 11 AM and 2 PM, and then those planes then turnaround and head back to their origin city about an hour later (so the bulk of flight departures are usually between noon and 3). There are a few early/late exceptions to this, generally with connections in Miami or Fort Lauderdale, which is a 45ish minute flight.

Its also worth noting that the flight back to the U.S. is a lot more expensive than the flight from. This is because both the U.S. and the Bahamian collect a lot of taxes and fees on this leg of the flights…on my upcoming one-way flight home taxes and fees (US arrival CBP fees and Bahamian Departure taxes) are $128, plus airfare of $125.

Nassau’s airport is a nice modern airport. If you were there 10ish years ago, it was pretty dumpy. The old one is gone, and the new one is modern and typical of a small/medium sized U.S. city. The Bahamian arrival customs and immigration hall, and the baggage claim area has plenty of space and porters to help with luggage.

The departures gate area has nice shopping and dining. There’s a food court, a dunkin donuts, and numerous little shops. This is a huge improvement from the old days when the departures area was single room with one tiny gift shop and an unappetizing food venue. Especially because you might be waiting there a while, because:

YOU GO THROUGH U.S. CUSTOMS IN NASSAU’S AIRPORT (https://www.cbp.gov/travel/preclearance). This has pros and cons. The pro is you arrive in the U.S. as a domestic passenger and go to the regular baggage claims, then get on your way. The con is you have to get to the airport 3 hours ahead of departure because you have the extra step of U.S. customs and immigration before your flight. In recent years this has become a non-issue, as the U.S. CBP station in Nassau has plenty of automated kiosks, but there were times in the past it took us 90 minutes to get though this line (and this was the U.S.’s fault, not the Bahamian. They did not have enough CBP agents, and the line got enormous. We got Global Entry the next year – there are Global Entry Kiosks). Even though this step has become more efficient, they still recommend a arriving 3 hours before departure.

Transportation from the Airport:

There is no uber or Lyft in the Bahamas. There are taxis and shuttles. A taxi is usually the best choice for a group over two people. Most taxis are vans that can handle groups of 5-10. Limos are available for a higher price.

Nassau has a taxi zone system with regulated fares. Only licensed taxis are allowed to pick up at the airport, and the hotels are generally the same. Expect to pay $40ish for a family of 4 to Bahamar or $50ish to Atlantis. Cash only, and tips are customary. There are a few taxi companies you can pre-arrange payment with a credit card, but these companies usually ask for a higher fare. The fees and fares can be found here: https://nassaulpia.com/to-from/#local-taxi-rates.

Hotels:

Bahamar and Atlantis are the major resorts in Nassau. There’s one business hotel downtown (British Colonial Hilton). Then there are a few smaller hotels.

I would advise against Air BnB in Nassau. Most tourist are at their resorts in the evening, and once the cruise ships leave in the afternoon, the downtown area gets pretty quiet. There are a few off-resort restaurants that stay open for dinner, but people take a taxi to them….there’s not a lively downtown or boardwalk area to stroll in the evening (other than at Atlantis and possibly at Bahamar).

As for using loyalty points, there’s a Hyatt at Bahamar, you can use Marriott Bonvoy points at Atlantis, and you can use Choice Hotel points at the Comfort Suites Paradise Island (which also get you access to Atlantis’ grounds and Aquaventure).

I said in a prior post that I expect RCCL’s check-in will be done at either Atlantis or Bahamar. When there more clarity on how the embarkation process will go, I’ll update my suggestions.

I’m happy to answer questions.

 

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I’m back from my annual week at Atlantis in Nassau. From my experience, I think they will be coming up with a different process for cruisers. I suspect the requirements for entering the Bahamas will stay the same. But the process once there, and departing almost certainly has to be adapted to visitors getting on a ship.

Bahamas Health Visa Entry Requirements

As noted above, to get a Bahamas Health Visa you have to get a negative COVID test (PCR only, not rapid antigen) a maximum of five days before your arrival. I arrived on a Saturday, so a test from the preceding Monday was valid. In our case, my family got tested Monday afternoon, paid for rush service and had our results Tuesday mid-morning.

After getting PDFs of the tests, we set up accounts on the travel visa website. Adults have to set up accounts individually, and one of the parents has to add the children as child profiles in their account. As part of the process of setting up the accounts, you have to upload scans of the information page on your passport. You have to do that as well for children.

To apply for the health visa, you add a ‘trip’ in your account, and upload the scan/PDF of your test results as part of the form. If you’re travelling with a child, you upload their test results in a ‘trip’ too. If the child is 10 or under, you should upload a scan of their passport as an exemption document (this part isn’t obvious and caused a ~48 hour delay in the processing of our visas).

My wife and I applied for the health visa at approximately the same time late morning Tuesday. I had the kids’ application on my account. My wife’s application was approved in less than 90 minutes. Mine took almost 48 hours, and multiple phone calls to the number provided on the visa website. The fact that I didn’t upload my son’s passport scan as a ‘test exemption document’ may have bene the cause of the delay, but I think the visa department may have been overwhelmed the week before Easter. I suspect this kind of delay may happen the first couple cruises, so be prepared to sit on hold for 60-90 minutes at $0.15 per minute (international call).

Airlines will check for your health visa before boarding the flight to Nassau, which means the document might not be checked until you’re in your connecting city. The border entry agent in the Nassau airport will also check.

Requirements While in The Bahamas

Currently, visitors to the Bahamas are required to respond to a daily health survey asking questions about COVID exposure or symptoms. This was an easy 6 question survey, that came through email. Responding means you have to have some form of internet access, so I expect that cruisers will be exempted.

Visitors are also required to get tested on day 5 of their visit. Most of the hotels have set up on-site testing facilities, so it was pretty convenient, though it took us around 2 hours due to the line. It’s a rapid test, and we got our results within a few hours.

I suspect that the Bahamas will adjust the day 5 requirement for people on the ship. Otherwise everyone on the ship may have to be tested on the same day. Unless that’s the plan and they’ll have the capacity to do so, that sounds impractical.

Entry Back into U.S.

To get back into the U.S., you have to present at the airport a negative test from no more than 3 days prior to your flight. Rapid test are accepted, and there is a testing site at the airport, but the line looked long. The check-in agent at the kiosks very quickly glanced at our tests, and that was the only point on the Bahamas departure/U.S. re-entry where it was checked.

We were returning on a Saturday, so a Wednesday test was acceptable. Conveniently and coincidentally, the Bahamas health visa day 5 test works for the U.S. re-entry test if you’re doing a weeklong stay. But since 10 year-olds and under aren’t required to have a test to enter the Bahamas (and pay for the health visa) we had to pay $20 for my 10-year-old’s test, which the U.S. requires to get back into the country.

I think the ship will have to have the ability to do the tests and provide a printout of the results. Otherwise I think the airport test site would be overwhelmed with 1,000 ship passengers all needing to be tested to get on their flights.

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This is good info.

 

The cruise-centric questions yet to be answered (that I'm curious of at least) are:

-Will RC have something set up to accommodate the presumed late boarding time window so people don't have to keep their luggage at the hotel after checkout?

-What will the Royal Caribbean-required PCR test time frame be for those under 18 (and especially under 10 since the Bahamas doesn't require it for them) for boarding. These windows can mess with families who are looking to spend a couple nights in the Bahamas before the cruise.

-What will the disembarkation process be in the covid world with respect to timings of departure flights?

 

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Update on the cruise terminal construction.  Interesting that it seems there will be an option to drop your bags at the airport for delivery to the cruise port

 

https://www.travelpulse.com/news/cruise/nassau-cruise-port-preparing-for-first-homeport-ships.html?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=organic_social&utm_campaign=f186ba52-6be0-4ad7-bb81-e176b4dd9c24&fbclid=IwAR3qXc3FDcZS-hpw9dsRAJS6hZJocKSWc9Q1IX_3XKEXOwHaIANphjOOO4I

 

At the airport, passengers and baggage will be separated, so the tagged bags will arrive at the ship and delivery can begin. Upon disembarkation, the opposite will happen.

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2 hours ago, smokeybandit said:

At the airport, passengers and baggage will be separated, so the tagged bags will arrive at the ship and delivery can begin. Upon disembarkation, the opposite will happen.

That's awesome!

I'm very interested in exactly how this will work.  For example, do we put our Royal Caribbean luggage tags on before we leave home or do we do it at the airport? I wish more ports would do this!

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I'm mixed on that.  I like the concept (especially for disembarkation since this would only work for people flying in day of cruise and we don't do that). But I'd be somewhat concerned about really not knowing where my luggage was from 11pm the night before until I got to the airport.

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2 hours ago, smokeybandit said:

Update on the cruise terminal construction.  Interesting that it seems there will be an option to drop your bags at the airport for delivery to the cruise port

 

https://www.travelpulse.com/news/cruise/nassau-cruise-port-preparing-for-first-homeport-ships.html?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=organic_social&utm_campaign=f186ba52-6be0-4ad7-bb81-e176b4dd9c24&fbclid=IwAR3qXc3FDcZS-hpw9dsRAJS6hZJocKSWc9Q1IX_3XKEXOwHaIANphjOOO4I

 

At the airport, passengers and baggage will be separated, so the tagged bags will arrive at the ship and delivery can begin. Upon disembarkation, the opposite will happen.

Great for the people who are flying in the day of the cruise and leaving the same day, but for everyone else that wouldn't work. This is for sure a great optional service though and makes it a lot easier to not have to worry about the luggage. 

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10 hours ago, smokeybandit said:

At the airport, passengers and baggage will be separated, so the tagged bags will arrive at the ship and delivery can begin. Upon disembarkation, the opposite will happen.

I believe this is called "Luggage Valet" and comes a charge with at other ports!  

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We too do not fly in the day of departure so no issue there, however we chose the British Colonial Hilton as we thought it would be more convenient to the cruise port. If RCI does check in over on Paradise Island at Atlantis that’s some taxi rides for us?  Hopefully that won’t be the only option. 

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11 hours ago, BarbieBell said:

We too do not fly in the day of departure so no issue there, however we chose the British Colonial Hilton as we thought it would be more convenient to the cruise port. If RCI does check in over on Paradise Island at Atlantis that’s some taxi rides for us?  Hopefully that won’t be the only option. 

Unless it has changed, the British Colonial Hilton will be the check in point for the cruise from Nassau.  I am staying there for my September cruise so I hope that is still the plans.  Details should be coming out soon since the first cruise is less than 30 days away.

 

https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/2021/04/26/royal-caribbean-will-use-nassau-hotel-adventure-of-the-seas-passenger-check

https://thenassauguardian.com/hilton-bookings-climbing-for-royal-caribbean-home-porting-weekends/

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  • 2 weeks later...

Maybe the Hilton is super-temporary before the other temporary terminal opens?

 

https://thenassauguardian.com/first-cruise-ship-since-covid-19-lockdown-arrives-at-port/

 

Nassau Cruise Port Limited’s President and Chief Executive Officer Mike Maura said the port is preparing to welcome just over 1,000 cruise passengers through a temporary terminal that has been constructed for home port-based cruises.

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  • 3 weeks later...

https://thenassauguardian.com/cruise-ship-home-porting-generating-added-stayover-business-for-np/

 

Almost half of the cruise passengers who disembarked Royal Caribbean International’s inaugural home porting voyage from New Providence following the completion of their cruise, spent an extra night on the island, Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar revealed yesterday, touting the immediate advantages home porting is already bringing to the country.

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