Nassau is a popular cruise port for shopping, but you might not know that there's more to buy than duty-free diamonds and cheap T-shirts. Or that an array of shops and markets are located just steps from your cruise ship or at most a 15-minute walk away -- no cab necessary.
If you're after standard Nassau souvenirs or wares by retailers endorsed by your cruise ship's shopping consultant, you'll find a shopper's haven within a few blocks of your ship. If you want to know what else to buy in Nassau and where to find more local products, we've also got you covered. Here are the top things to buy in Nassau, and where to find them.
Go to your cruise ship's shopping talk, and the rep will spend most of her time talking about jewelry shopping in Nassau. Whether you're looking for diamonds, fine watches or even designer handbags, you'll find duty-free offerings just steps from the cruise ship. The best jewelry stores in Nassau (or, at least, all the expensive ones) are found on Bay Street, just a block from the cruise ship pier.
If you want that cruise ship guarantee, you'll find the omnipresent Diamonds International, Tanzanite International and Colombian Emeralds International, among other stores like Pandora, Tag Heuer, Cariloha and Del Sol. If you'd like more of your purchases to benefit Bahamians, shop at locally owned high-end shops, such as John Bull and Coin of the Realm.
The Bahamas is known for handicrafts made from straw -- such as bags, fans and dolls. You can even get these items personalized with your name on them. If you want to save money and don't necessarily care about authenticity -- or whether your straw bag was mass produced -- hit up the Straw Market, which runs from Woodes Rodgers Walk (where the port is) to Bay Street. It's a warren of narrow pathways through stalls laden with products for sale, and you're welcome to bargain, price compare among multiple vendors and pay in dollars (at a rate of $1 US to 1 Bahamian dollar).
If you'd like something a bit nicer and more reliably local, head a bit farther to Pompey Square, where an artisan's market takes place Wednesday through Sunday. We saw gorgeous straw handbags from Carmie's Charms that would make a stylish accessory to any fine outfit.
You can buy diamonds everywhere, but there are some charms you can't buy outside of the Bahamas. Bahamian artists make more than just items from straw. Stop by the Pompey Square artisan's market to buy jewelry and ornaments made from local sand or pendants incorporating old Bahamian coins or beadwork and other crafts made by Nassau's artisans.
Another local handicraft is wood carving. The alleyway next to the Straw Market is the hangout for all the carvers. You can peruse wooden statues, boxes, fish, trains and more -- even see some of the craftspeople at work. You'll also find some woodwork inside the Straw Market.
Authentic craft items are also for sale in the artist's studios on West Hill Street (look for the swinging chairs outside), a 10-minute walk from the cruise pier. The gift shop at the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, also on West Hill, is another great place to pick up interesting fine art gifts for your cultured friends back home.
If you have a chocolate-lover on your gift list, you can bring them back artisanal chocolate from the Graycliff Chocolatier on West Hill Street. (You might also visit on an organized tour.) The chocolates are locally made, while the cocoa is sourced from Costa Rica. An array of items for sale range from chocolate bark to chocolate-flavored pasta and emoji-shaped chocolates. If you're serious about your chocolate, you can sign up for a factory tour with a chocolate-making class or a chocolate and spirits pairing.
Just make sure to purchase your sweets last thing before heading back to the ship. You don't want to buy chocolate and then hit the beach!
Cuba might be the island best known for cigars, but aficionados calling in Nassau will want to check out the Graycliff Cigar Company, also located on West Hill Street by the Graycliff Hotel. The tobacco is not local, but torcedores (master cigar rollers) work onsite to create five local cigar brands. Visitors can book a tour, a cigar-rolling lesson or cigar-rolling demo with rum tasting -- or simply shop for souvenirs.
Want to go shopping in a scenic 18th-century estate? If you like local, small-batch rum, you're in luck. John Watling's Distillery -- named after a 17th-century pirate -- is on Delancy Street (around the corner from the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas) and produces four types of rum onsite, using Caribbean sugars. Not only can you shop for a bottle to bring home as a souvenir or gift, but you can take a free tour of the distillery or enjoy a cocktail made with the local rum at the onsite Red Turtle Tavern.
If inexpensive souvenirs or T-shirts are on your shopping list, rest assured that Nassau has all the retail therapy you desire. Woodes Rodgers Walk and even high-end Bay Street offer multiple souvenir shops just steps from your cruise ship. If you're on a budget, check out a few; some have discounts for purchasing multiple T-shirts. If you're a collector of bar/restaurant logowear, you'll find a Senor Frog's on one corner of Pompey Square and a Hard Rock Cafe on Charlotte Street between Woodes Rodgers and Bay.