Nassau, The Bahamas Cruises

With its beaches, shopping, resorts, casinos, historic landmarks, and active activities (land and water), Nassau is the Bahamas' most visited destination, and one of the world's busiest cruise ship ports. The Nassau/Paradise Island area comprises two separate islands: Nassau is on the northeastern shore of 34km (21-mile) New Providence Island, with tiny Paradise Island linked to New Providence by bridges, protecting the Nassau harbor. Cruise ships dock at Prince George Wharf, in the center of Nassau town at Rawson Square. Downtown Nassau still preserves some vestiges of the Bahamas' British colonial past, including the flamingo-pink government buildings of Parliament Square, surrounding a statue of Queen Victoria.

Shore excursions here tend to center around snorkeling, diving, and boat-tour options.

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For many visitors, however, duty-free luxury-goods shopping is the town's biggest attraction, with a profusion of shops on and around Bay Street practically the first thing you see when you step off the ship. Top draw The fancifully designed Atlantis Paradise Island megaresort (www.atlantis. Com ) keeps its beach and pool off limits to non-guests, but cruise passengers are invited to spend money at its casino and restaurants, and to take a guided tour of the resort's sprawling system of man-made lagoons. Cheesy but fun Nassau's 18th-century pirate past is mined for yar-har-hars downtown at the interactive Pirates of Nassau Museum (www.piratesofnassau. Com ).

For nature lovers Performing pink flamingos are the star attraction at Ardastra Gardens (www.ardastra. Com ), where you can also see parrots, boa constrictors, honey bears, macaws, and capuchin monkeys in a lush tropical landscape. Top beach On New Providence Island, sun worshipers flock to beautiful 6.5km (4-mile) Cable Beach, which has various watersports and easy access to shops, a casino, bars, and restaurants.

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