This makes my seventh visit to New Providence Island/Nassau over the past twenty years, either via cruise or air, so I am pretty familiar with the place. Nassau is Nassau. I love it, personally. I love its unabashed tackiness, it's borderline seediness, the crazy cabdrivers and the pushy salespeople. Others hate it for exactly the same reasons. I had read with dread the recent US State Department's warnings about crime in Nassau, and duly noted the paragraph in our Freestyle Daily urging cruise passengers to exercise care while in Nassau for the same reason.
I am happy to report that well, Nassau is *still* the Nassau I love, and nothing untoward appeared to be going on as of this last visit (May 2014).
It's still a little grimy around the edges, but in the port area most things have a new coat of paint and are generally well maintained. Beware you don't turn an ankle on the uneven pavements and mind the Jitney's and taxis and scooters when crossing the street, but enjoy Nassau for what it is, a city with a wonderful and colorful history and a warm, inviting population. Take the time to know them and you'll learn a lot about the island and city they call home. This last cruise, we came in on the Norwegian Sky for the day.
Yes, as soon as you walk through the gates you will be accosted by aggressive taxi drivers and hair braiders. A simple "no thank you" will turn their attention to someone else. I don't begrudge anyone for trying to make a buck. Make your way to Bay Street and enjoy the shopping, if that's your thing. Personally, since the advent of the internet I find I can buy most things online for as good or better pricing than in most cruise ports. We walked both sides of Bay street before turning South and walking up the hill towards Fort FIncastle.
My wife and I were the only cruisers/tourists making the hike to the fort that Saturday morning. Along the way, we passed several locals and were greeted with smiles and "good mornings," and although I was in "Condition Yellow" (i.e., maintaining a full awareness of my surroundings and taking mental inventory of all persons and places along my route), I saw nothing to make us feel threatened in any way, Note, your mileage may vary, so to speak. I'm 6'2" 270 and probably not seen as any sort of "easy mark" by anyone looking to roll a tourist, but that said, there were only pleasant individuals and families we saw on our way up to the Fort, no groups of youths or folks looking as if they were out for trouble in any way,
I enjoyed the hike up to Fincastle, although it was hard on my wife's feet, and enjoyed our self-guided tour of the very small fort, There's a great view of the harbor from the Fort, which is exactly why they placed their cannons there, I suppose :-)
We decided to cab it out of there, in deference to my wife's aching footsies, but all of the cabs at the Fort area were waiting on their fares they brought up from the port. No problem, I approached a uniformed Nassau Police Officer and told him I was looking for a taxi, whereupon he accompanied us to the Fort's Gift Shop and asked the girl behind the counter to call us one. Five minutes later, we were in a cab on the way to John Watley's Rum Distillery.
Watley's is on beautiful grounds and we took a self-guided tour of the distillery, which was not distilling or bottling anything that day, but was interesting nonetheless. We had a couple of delicious Bahama Mamas on the grounds and returned to our cab for a ride to Ardastra Gardens & Zoo.
Ardastra is worth the trip. The entry costs $16 pp, and that Saturday morning we were one of maybe a dozen visitors to the park. It;s a beautiful place, filled with tropical foliage and trees and where the peacocks and flamingos have the run of the place, and you can interact with them up close and at will. We were saddened to learn that just two weeks before, the park's resident 20-year old Jaguar passed away. Very sad to see the notice on the empty habitat pen.
There are plenty of birds and animals to see, Lory Parrot feeding and a flamingo parade, which we didn't actually stay to see. There's a little gift shop with souvenirs and other items for the kids/grandkids and we made a bunch of purchases there. Only caveat is those with accessibility issues might have some trouble navigating the paths and uneven ground.
From Ardastra Gardens we walked the few blocks to the Arawak Cay Fish Fry, and had lunch at Twin Brothers restaurant. The conch fritters are better at Goldies, Twins' are more fritter and less conch, but their fried grouper and conch burgers (really cracked conch on a bun) were excellent. The Kaliks are ice cold and overall, Twin Bros gets a thumbs up.
From there it was cab back downtown, some shopping, bought some of the obligatory conch shells to bring home before heading back to the ship.
Summary: Nassau is in my experience, still quite safe to walk,, on the port side of the hill, during daylight hours. It;s a city, like any other city, and you need to be aware at all times. There is a lot to see, and I truly love the Bahamian people. They are warm, friendly and helpful and appreciate those tourists who take an interest in them and their island, If walking concerns you, take a cab. They are plentiful, if dilapidated, and most of the drivers are a hoot! Enjoy their company and local knowledge, just negotiate your fare up front! You'll still make out far better dollar-wise than a pricey shore excursion/tour.