Planning your port adventures are part of the fun when you sail on any of the four Disney Cruise Line ships! Fortunately for Guests, no matter which ship you sail on or which port you are stopping in, Disney provides its Guests with an extensive list of excursions from which to choose. Each of the port adventures have been specially selected by Disney Cruise Line and provide you and your family with the very best each destination has to offer.
While planning our ultimate Bahamas vacation on the Disney Dream, I had so many port adventures in Nassau to choose from. I was looking for something that would give us a taste of Nassau and, just as importantly, fit our budget. In the end, I decided to book the See & Sea Island Tour Nassau. The Disney Cruise Line site stated that Guests would “Enjoy Nassau by land and sea as you combine the Seaworld Explorer Semi-Submarine experience with a narrated bus tour.” and ” View coral reefs from an undersea observatory—then take a guided tour of Nassau.” This was just what I was looking for and at the cost of around $65 a person, the price was right too.
This exact tour is no longer offered but a similar tour, Seaworld Explorer Semi-Submarine, provides the same services as the sea portion of the See & Sea Island Tour Nassau that we took and the Nassau Forts & Junkanoo Discovery tour includes the land portion of the tour (and even more). Even though this specific tour is no longer available for Guests to book, I thought that my review would be helpful for our readers who are considering the two other tours that I just referenced. As you will see below, this article contains lots of pictures of some of the things that are included in those tours. More specifically, the Seaworld Explorer Semi-Submarine and the Fort Fincastle portion of the Nassau Forts & Junkanoo Discovery tour.
When we arrived in our stateroom, our shore excursion tickets were on our bed with instructions on where and when we were to meet on the ship. We arrived in the designated area approximately twenty minutes prior to the stated time and waited for the cast member to give us instructions.
DIStracted Tip: It is important to note that each person MUST have their excursion tickets, room key and proper identification with them at all times. You can NOT get back onboard the ship without identification. This identification must also be shown in the Customs House when leaving Nassau.
Two cast members checked us in and we later joined our group on the walk through the ship and outdoors. There were two different group tours leaving from the same gathering area on the ship and in order to keep everyone together, the cast members carried two “paddle” type signs in the air, each with a different Disney character on them. At times, the two groups would merge together but by the time we disembarked, we had formed two separate groups again.
Just like the Seaworld Explorer Semi-Submarine tour, the See & Sea Island Tour Nassau description included the following:
- Take a 15-minute walk to a transfer boat for a scenic ride through picturesque Nassau Harbor to the marine park at Athol Island.
- Upon arrival, board the SeaWorld Explorer, a unique vessel that remains above the surface while its hull, the underwater observatory, is 5 feet under the water. Through your own personal viewing window, observe a delicate colony of coral, known as the “Sea Gardens,” populated with many varieties of colorful tropical fish.
- After approximately 45 minutes exploring the waters of Athol Island
Once we were off the ship, the walk to the Seaworld Explorer was a short one and came nowhere near the 15 minute walk that was indicated in the description. It is possible that they factored in time for the group to gather together again after disembarking from the Disney Dream.
As you can see from the picture below, there were several Seaworld Explorer crew members helping Guests step onboard by offering a guiding hand.
DIStracted Tip: Please take note of the following information posted on the Disney Cruise Line site. This excursion is stroller accessible. However, some portions of the tour may require Guests to fold strollers, so lightweight models are recommended. Wheelchairs (collapsible or electric) are not permitted. Tour operators will deny participation to Guests arriving in wheelchairs or electric scooters.
Guests could choose their seating and all had a great view of our surroundings. Once everyone was settled in, we waved goodbye to the Disney Dream and the Captain navigated through Nassau Harbor and headed towards the marine park at Athol Island. I noticed quite a few fishing boats heading out as well and I assumed they were other port adventures Guests could book.
Our guide, using a microphone so that everyone could hear, gave us information about the sites that we were seeing. He told us that the homes along the harbor were owned by celebrities and multi-millionaires. I believed him as the houses were so grand! You might also notice the number of large boats docked outside of these houses. We were told that the majority of residents use these as their means of getting around and that purchasing and getting a car to Nassau was quite expensive.
Our boat tour also included views of Atlantis Resort and the famed bridge suite frequented by celebrities, most notably, Michael Jackson. The 10-room suite with gold sofas, cushions, gilt mirrors and chandeliers was listed by Forbes Magazine and CNN as one of the world’s most expensive hotel rooms. Our guide told us (as did the CNN article) that the suite costs $25,000.00 a night!
Once we reached the waters of Athol Island, the Seaworld Explorer idled over next to the semi-submarine and we transfered from one to the other.
For those of you who may be nervous about stepping from one boat to another, I assure you that it was easy and, again, the crew members were there to help us onboard. We were shown a short staircase that led to the bottom of the boat and asked to move all the way down before taking a seat. As you can see from the pictures, the boat is narrow and the seats are folded up to allow for walking down the middle.
Each seat had a window and everyone had a great view.
Just above the windows, you could see the grasses and algae growing on the boat and every once in a while, a small fish would appear out of nowhere or one would come nibble on it.
After all of the Guests settled into their seats, our guide told us that we’d start slowly moving soon and would pass over a colony of coral known as the “Sea Gardens”.
As the sea life would swim by, our guide would point them out to us and give us information about each species of fish or turtle. At times, a Guest would say “I see a….” and we’d turn to see it ourselves. There were all shapes and sizes sea turtles and colorful fish. It was amazing to see. The pictures do not, in any way, show the number of fish that we saw or their beauty.
The following video gives you a better perspective but still doesn’t capture all that we saw that day.
After approximately 45 minutes of underwater viewing, we were back at the Seaworld Explorer boat and made the transfer again. We did give a tip to our semi-submarine guide and thanked him for a wonderful and informative time.
DIStracted Tip: The following information regarding tipping is posted to the Disney Cruise Line site: “You should never feel that gratuities are expected, but it is customary to leave a tip in recognition of exceptional service in restaurants, taxis and for excursion guides and drivers. It is always up to you to determine the amount.”
Our Captain took us back to the pier where we started while we enjoyed the views.
We tipped the two crew members onboard and followed an awaiting guide to the start of the next portion of the tour.
We boarded an air conditioned van and the inside had seen its better days. This is not to say that it was run down or that I was scared that the van itself would break down at any minute but it did have a wee bit of smell and could have used a good cleaning. But it did have plastic seat covers so I guess that was a plus.
Our guide was very pleasant and his knowledge and wit more than made up for the condition of the van. The traffic in Nassau reminded me a little of the traffic that you see on The Amazing Race with taxis and motorcycles zipping amongst one another on the narrow streets, horns are honking but everybody is smiling, including our tour guide. He handled the traffic like there was nothing to it and never stopped giving us information on Nassau. He told us that the tax on a vehicle was outrageous and that’s why we didn’t see as many domestic cars on the road but instead saw more tour vans, taxis or delivery trucks. He also pointed out the number of banks there were. They seemed to be two on every block that we passed. In addition, there were diamond and high end jewelry stores every which way you looked. In contrast to the banks and the jewelry stores, we also saw blocks of souvenir stores and restaurants.
The skies were turning a little gray and the clouds seemed to be coming in but the ride to nearby Fort Fincastle was a short one and we were there before any raindrops fell. There were a few other tour groups there as well when we arrived. We had to pay a fee to enter the fort and while I can’t remember the exact price, I can tell you that it was very minimal. We dropped the fee in a box sitting on a chair and explored a bit before it started sprinkling. From the top of Fort Fincastle, we could see the Caribbean, Atlantis and our cruise ship, the Disney Dream.
Erected in 1793, Fort Fincastle was named after British captain Lord Dunmore—and his second title, Viscount Fincastle—who had it built to protect Nassau Harbour and watch for encroaching pirates. Since it was located atop Bennet’s Hill, the highest point on New Providence Island, the fort provided fantastic views of Nassau and Paradise Island as well as the eastern approaches to New Providence. Its appearance alone must have been daunting enough to all would-be marauders since its cannons were never fired! (Excerpt from nassauparadiseisland.com)
The guide had given us a time limit to explore Fort Fincastle and we wanted to make sure that we didn’t miss the departure so we finished up the self guided tour a little quicker than we had to. I wish that we had taken more time to read the signs and really look around more.
There were street vendors set up near the parking lot and we stopped to look at the items that they had for sale. I was pleasantly surprised that they didn’t hassle us to purchase anything as I had heard that this was a problem in Nassau. They were quite polite and let us look without pushing their merchandise on us.
Just as the other Guests on the tour were making their way back to the van, it started raining. Our guide took us back into town and past such sights as Bay Street, Rawson’s Square, Parliament buildings and the Supreme Court. It was raining so I didn’t take any pictures. It was odd to see the Parliament and Supreme Court buildings right there on the street with no security in sight. He gave us much insight into the history of Nassau and the culture of the residents.
The land portion of our tour ended near the same spot that it began. He tried to get us as close to the Customs House as he could but it was apparent that we would have to make a running dash to cover. I quickly put a tip in the tip jar by the driver’s seat and we ran out into the rain.
We had hoped to take some time to venture a little more into Nassau and possibly do some shopping at the Straw Market but we had to settle for shopping in the Customs House. It was really crowded there because, apparently, everyone had taken shelter from the rain. I was able to purchase a few of the famous rum cakes to take home and I tucked those into my bag before going through customs and back to the ship. All three of us were soaked by the time we got back to the Disney Dream but cast members were waiting for the Guests with warm towels which was an appreciated gesture/service.
So, while I know that the 3 to 3.5 hour See & Sea Island Tour Nassau is no longer offered, I hope that you enjoyed my review. As I said, all of the things that we did during this tour are now covered in the Seaworld Explorer Semi-Submarine adventure and in the Nassau Forts & Junkanoo Discovery excursion. The forts & Junkanoo tour actually goes to even more places than Fort Fincastle. The Disney Cruise Line lists the semi-submarine tour as 1.5 to 2 hours and the forts & Junkanoo tour as 2.5 to 3 hours so it may be possible to do both. Ask your travel agent or call Disney Cruise Line directly to obtain additional information.
If you’d like to learn more about the various port adventures, pricing, what to expect, etc., you’ll want to be sure to read “Port Adventures with Disney Cruise Line” which was written by my fellow Magical DIStractions team member, Mary S.
Mary’s DIStracted Tip: One big advantage to booking through Disney Cruise Line is a guarantee that the ship will not leave the port without you. Port Adventures are coordinated with the ship’s arrival. If the ship is late, tour times will be adjusted. If an excursion runs late, DCL will wait (or arrange complimentary transportation to the next port of call, according to the DCL website). If you are off on your own and your ship is scheduled to depart at 5:00pm, you had better be back onboard before that time or you can wave good-bye to your ship.
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