CRUISE REVIEW: Royal Caribbean 3-Night Bahamas Cruise on Mariner of the Seas
Over Columbus weekend in October, we took a 3-night cruise out on the Mariner of the Seas that left from Miami, Florida and sailed to Nassau and CocoCay, both in the Bahamas. CocoCay is Royal Caribbean’s private island, which was still under construction when we were there in October.
Mariner of the Seas received a $120 million renovation in early 2018, so there will be some differences on the ship if you were on it prior to those renovations being completed in mid-2018. The renovations were only about four months old at the time we sailed on it.
Mariner of the Seas
You can read our full review on the refurbished Mariner of the Seas that goes into specific details on the ship. Also, having the deluxe drink package for this cruise was definitely worth it! In summation of what you’ll see there, the Mariner of the Seas is perfectly fine for a 3-day cruise to the Bahamas. The refurbishment has added some nice touches and the ship is a decent size for the length of the cruise.
Nassau Port Stop
I had been to Nassau before on two other cruises that I’ve taken. I didn’t want to get off in Nassau, but my in-laws were on the cruise too and they had never been. Overall, there seems to be more gimmicks and badgering by salespeople than there are actual things to do. This is probably a big reason The Bahamas is growing frustrated with people not getting off the cruise lines in Nassau.
We went to a winery and a distillery during our time there. We also walked around the straw market.
Bahamas Passport Stamp
If you want to get your passport stamped in The Bahamas, you are able to do that in Nassau. There is a government building shortly after getting off the ship that they will do it for you if you ask. On the way from the port on your left, you will see a small hut structure with a guard in front of a gate. Go up to that structure, show your passport, and they will direct you to the office in the building across the street. This is nice to do if you like to keep a log in your passport of countries that you’ve been to.
There is a straw market a close walk to the port where you can buy locally crafted items and other souvenirs. They have a vast array of different items at the straw market. However, the prices can be pretty high since this is a huge tourist destination and a significant mass of people from the cruise ships visit the straw market to stock up on souvenirs from Nassau.
You can barter with the vendors at the straw market, though it isn’t like in some places where they’ll end up giving in to you. The vendors know there’s a big pool of people, some who won’t barter. So there is less of an incentive for them to really match your price. Many of the vendors don’t even follow you to win you over if you walk away.
John Watling’s Distillery
The John Watling Distillery is about a 20 minute walk from the port. Keep in mind that the walk can be rather secluded at times and you should take caution while walking there. I have not felt unsafe the two times I made the walk, but it’s important to remember that the State Department does have travel warnings about violent crime in the area. Unlike other areas in the port, the walk is not full of other tourists. It is best to be aware of your surroundings if you go.
The distillery is open daily from 10:00am to 6:00pm. There is a free tour of the property, which was founded in 1789, that includes a free sample of a piña colada made out of one of their rums. The tour also included the packaging area, where you can smell the different rums they offer that are in barrels. The tour guide was very informative.
There is a bar and gift shop at the end of the tour where you can purchase tastings and cocktails. The gift store sells bottles of their rums. As a heads up, the tasting of the rums is very rough. The alcohol is not particularly smooth.
Interestingly, there was also a scene filmed on the property in the James Bond movie Casino Royale. The estate served as the Embassy of Nambutu in the movie, and if you remember the scene you will quickly see the same landmarks when you visit the estate.
Bahamas Barrels Winery
Bahamas Barrels is The Bahamas first winery. The grapes are sourced in from other countries since the climate in The Bahamas is not conducive to growing the best wine grapes. Specifically, two of the countries the wine taster told us the grapes come from are Italy and Argentina,
We did a tasting for $5. You may want to have cash, as they did not want to take a credit card. The wines tasted good during the tasting. The wines are sweet for the most part. However, we bought a bottle and drank it when we got home. It tasted completely different than the one we tasted when at the winery. It could be that the specific bottle was spoiled. However, I just wanted to make a note of that for future visitors.
There is also a chocolate store across the street from Bahamas Barrels. We stopped in and got a free sample of chocolate, but did not buy anything from the store.
CocoCay is a private island in The Bahamas owned by Royal Caribbean. It’s important to note here that the island is still under construction and the island in its completion is not expected until May 2019. When we pulled into CocoCay, it looked like a beach with a construction site. I’m not certain what it looks like at this point, but just be prepared if you’re sailing very soon it may not be anything close to what it looks like on Royal Caribbean’s website.
The transfer to CocoCay required being brought in on a smaller boat.
We didn’t get off to go into CocoCay because the only thing you could really do at the time was sit on the beach and eat. It’s important to note here that if you have a drink package, you are able to use that on CocoCay. Additionally, food on the island is included the same way as if you were on the ship. That’s a pretty nice benefit, and will be even nicer once the construction is complete and the island is more enticing to go to.
We stayed on the ship the day we were in port in CocoCay. That was a pretty good idea because many people got off the ship. This meant the pool was quiet and there were not many people around. Additionally, a lot of the kids were off the ship because their parents took them to CocoCay. This made it pretty enjoyable. The ship was quiet for most of the day until people starting returning in the mid-afternoon. I imagine that this will be the case once construction is complete, and maybe even more so as people will likely be more tempted to get off the ship once it’s complete.
The cruise was very enjoyable for around $300. We spent a lot of time on the ship since we didn’t get off in CocoCay and only went out into Nassau for a short time. It was enjoyable to be on the ship during the time many people were in port.
Overall, there’s not all too much to see in Nassau. CocoCay will be a cool place to check out once the construction is complete.