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A Guide to Cruising for Architecture Buffs: Nassau, Bahamas

For an architecture buff, cruising The Caribbean can be a dream come true. Nothing tells the story of a place as well as its architecture. And The Caribbean is no different. Its buildings and landmark sites have the power to transport you through time. In an earlier blog post on Caribbean Architecture, I highlighted some of Cuba’s most striking buildings and sites. Now, I’ll take you on a journey to explore The Bahamas through its architecture.

Cruise to Nassau - Queen's Staircase

#1. Queen’s Staircase

During the end of the 18th Century, The Bahamas were a primary target for pirates who wanted to control the Caribbean. The British had already colonized the Bahamas at that time. So, they built some forts, one of which was Fort Fincastle. Since Fort Fincastle is located at the highest point in Nassau, a route was needed to get to the fort in the event of an attack. To provide such a way, construction on the Queen's Staircase began in the late 1770's.

To this day, the Queen's Staircase is considered a magnificent feat of construction and architecture. It was built by approximately 600 slaves. They used hand tools and pickaxes to cut through solid limestone to construct the staircase. The structure took 16 years in total to complete. The stairs were later was named to recognize Queen Victoria - to honor the fact that she had worked to end slavery when she took over the throne in the 1830s. 

As you climb the staircase, take note of the way that they have been constructed. You can see ax marks in many of the steps. Once you reach the top, you'll be rewarded with a picturesque view of the ocean and cruise ships beyond. An artificial waterfall was created alongside the staircase to enhance the appeal of the stairs. It is the perfect place to snap a photograph or two for your social media feeds.

Just to the right is Fort Fincastle. It also offers excellent views of the city. The Queen's Staircase is about a 10-minute walk from the Nassau Cruise Port. It is open daily.

Nassau Cruise - Versailles Gardens

#2. Versailles Gardens

Also called The Cloisters Nassau, these ornate European-style gardens are a must-visit for architecture enthusiasts and art historians. This stunning structure was constructed by Augustinian Monks in Southwest France during the 14th century.  A wealthy businessman later imported the building to the United States.

In the 1920s, The Cloisters were shipped to the Bahamas. It took years to build the structure in the Bahamas as none of the pieces were labeled when they were sent to the Bahamas.

The Cloisters are now complete and overlooks Nassau Harbour. When you cruise Nassau, spend a day roaming the tiered gardens. Or, climb to the very top of the 12th century Augustinian cloister. Take in the lovely harbor views. If you happen to visit during the evening, spread out a mat on the manicured lawns and watch the sunset over the harbor. Dusk is a magical time to visit The Cloisters.

Nassau Cruise - Christ Church Cathedral

#3. Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral is the most prominent of all of the churches in the downtown Nassau area. Known as the "Mother Church," this impressive structure was built around 1670. The church features Gothic architecture, limestone-carved walls, and beautiful stained glass windows.

The church's history is punctuated by violence. As a result, it has been built and re-built several times. The Spaniards destroyed the original building, located on West Hill Street, in 1684. A second building was constructed on Frederick Street and was completed in 1695. It too was destroyed by the Spaniards. In 1724, a third building was built to house the church. Since this structure was made of wood, it was not very durable. Therefore, a fourth building was constructed in 1754.  The fourth church was built of cut limestone rocks. A steeple was added in 1774. In 1841, the fifth - and final - structure was built. This architectural gem features vibrant decor and fascinating memorial plaques lining the walls.

If you enjoyed this blog post, stayed tuned for the next part of this series: A Guide to Cruising for Architecture Buffs: Bermuda.