New Cruise Port Serving as a Catalyst for Nassau’s Redevelopment

Maya Nottage

The Nassau Cruise Port is seeing positive numbers and results after undergoing a major reconstruction project between 2021 and 2023.

Managed by Global Ports Holding, the facility saw a large investment, which included more berths, better services for passengers, the creation of a retail and entertainment space and general development work.

The project aimed to transform the cruise port into a waterfront destination, said Maya Nottage, regional marketing director at Nassau Cruise Port.

“We had the official handover of the port from the Government of the Bahamas to Global Ports Holding in October 2019,” she told Cruise Industry News.

The $350 million transformation project was scheduled to start in early 2020 but was put on hold due to the pandemic. Despite the health emergency, Global Ports Holding received approval to start construction in about June 2021, Nottage added.

Record-Breaking Numbers

The new Nassau Cruise Port debuted after two years of construction, with a grand opening ceremony taking place in May 2023.

“Since then, things have been buzzing. We had 4.4 million passengers by the end of the year, which was actually more than we projected,” Nottage said, noting that initial estimates pointed to 4 million guests.

The record-breaking number also surpasses the previous all-time high, which was in 2019 with 3.8 million passengers.

In December 2023, the cruise port set a new one-day visitor record, with 29,316 passengers arriving on six different ships.

“It’s a lot, and it’s fantastic for us, for our economy, and our local community. We do our best to make sure everyone is happy and accommodated well,” Nottage said.

“And the passengers love it. We hear a lot that when they think of six ships, they feel a little daunted. But when they actually get here and see how much space we have, and how lovely the redevelopment is, they feel quite comfortable and not overwhelmed.

“We are on track for a new record in 2024. By December, we expect 5.6 million cruise passengers for the calendar year,” she said.

Full Redevelopment

Most of the port area has redone, Nottage said. The redevelopment project included significant work on all of the piers, which have received new surfaces and shaded areas, as well as accessibility features and customer service booths.

Pier 1 saw significant improvements, with steel replacement and a length extension to allow for larger ships to dock.

“Originally, it could not take an Oasis-Class vessel and now it can. We extended it by 200 feet and replaced a lot of the steel on the inside of the pier to make it stronger,” Nottage explained.

A new 700-feet pier was built to accommodate mega yachts and attract more high-end clients, she added.

“They like to come here because we have Bahamas immigration and customs on site and very exclusive access,” Nottage said.

“Pre-pandemic we could maybe take two Oasis-Class vessels, now we actually have the capacity to handle four Oasis-Class ships at a time. It depends on the size of the ships that are going to be next to them,” Nottage said.

New Marinas

After the redevelopment, Nassau Cruise Port now has two marinas for cruise guests taking part in water excursions.

With the new infrastructure, passengers can board boats and water transfers at the East Marina, which is located near Pier 6, directly after leaving their cruise ships.

When returning from their excursions, guests disembark at a new marina built by Nassau Cruise Port on the West Marina, which is located in the commercial space on the other side of the cruise terminal.

Arrivals Terminal

Also new is the port’s Arrivals Terminal, which is quickly becoming a landmark.

“The idea was to create a really iconic ode to the future of what our terminal will be. This is why it looks different from everything else,” Nottage said, mentioning the Sydney Opera House as an inspiration for the unique structure.

The new building houses the Nassau Cruise Port managing office, in addition to customs, immigration, port agencies and a pharmacy.

Two giant LED screens were also installed outside the terminal, sharing information about the community and events happening at the port.

After passing the Arrivals Terminal, passengers get to the new Welcome Plaza, which includes retail areas and more, such as a new ground transportation hub.

Instead of just one exit like in the past, the cruise port now has four exits, leading to different streets in downtown Nassau.

“We really opened the area up to the community and the passengers,” Nottage said, noting that the new arrangement offers “many more opportunities to connect with the region.”

Junkanoo Museum and Commercial Space

The new Nassau Cruise Port also includes a new Junkanoo Museum, in addition to a revamped and expanded commercial retail area, with both food and beverage outlets and retail opportunities featuring local goods.

“We split the retail area into two. The first area is called the Port Marketplace and features about 50 merchants,” Nottage explained.

“By authentic, we mean it either includes 70 percent Bahamian resources or was designed by a Bahamian.”

Passengers are looking for products that they can’t find anywhere else, she noted, which made the approach successful for the sellers.

The new retail area includes a DJ booth, as well as a hair braiding pavilion, providing a “clean, sanitary, and inviting” experience.

Offering a “little more elevated experience,” the second retail area is named Market Plaza, Nottage explained.

“The products cost a little more, but they are also authentic Bahamian, made, and designed as well,” she added.

While some of the current tenants were grandfathered in, others were selected via an RFP process.

“We came up with a mandate for authentic products and gave them communication and marketing classes, help with software, business management classes and whatever else they needed.”

An annex to the plaza is a new entertainment space that features an open-air Amphitheater, an Art Gallery, a wine bar and a selection of eateries and restaurants.

Phase Two

Global Ports Holding is now preparing to launch phase two of the Nassau Cruise Port, which could include the creation of a day-club experience, a kids play area, additional entertainment space, and more retail and food and beverage options.

“We put the RFP out in March. Right now we are negotiating with the interested parties to see whether or not they can move with the project,” Nottage explained in late April.

“We are excited about our progress and the future of our port. For us, this is really just the beginning of what we think is possible for Nassau as a destination,” Nottage said, underlining that the port is acting as a catalyst for the development of the whole area.

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