Between the East of Florida and the northeast of Cuba lies a pocket of over 700 heavenly islands and more than 2,000 picturesque cays that make up the country of the Bahamas. Once a British colony, the islands are now a thriving tourist destination defined by their white and pink sand beaches, colonial architecture and laid-back Bahamian culture. If you’re thinking of taking a Bahamas cruise, it’s the perfect destination for a quick getaway from the East Coast with a range of short sailings available starting at just two nights. Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions answered about planning your Bahamas cruise.
1. What is the best time to go on a Bahamas cruise?
With more than 300 days of sunshine a year and temperatures rarely wavering from a perfect 80 degrees, there’s never a bad time to go on a Bahamas cruise. Rainy season runs from May through October, but showers are generally short-lived. Storm season peaks in the Fall months and can sometimes last into November.
For a taste of local culture (and libations), plan your cruise in February around Nassau’s Rum Bahamas festival. This three-day celebration features rum producers from across the Caribbean who offer free tastings, classes and cocktail competitions. The local food, live music and Junkanoo parties will give you a glimpse into Bahamian culture at its best.
2. What does a Bahamas cruise cost?
Catering to shorter, two to five-night sailings, the Bahamas might just be the most affordable cruise destination you’ll find and is a low-risk way for first-time cruisers to test out the cruise experience before committing to a full week at sea.
Because the Bahamas is so close to Miami, you can even find occasional 2 night cruises to the Bahamas that take you Nassau and back in the span of a long weekend. Carnival, Celebrity and MSC Cruises all offer 3 night cruises to the Bahamas starting at under $200!
Even the longest Bahamas cruises spanning nine nights can be found for under $1,000–a highly economical price for a sun and sand-filled getaway that includes both food and accommodation.
3. Where does a Bahamas cruise take you?
Ranging from resort meccas to uninhabited sanctuaries, the islands of the Bahamas are as diverse as they are plentiful and offer amenities for every type of traveler. With interesting architecture, pristine beaches, and spectacular snorkeling and diving opportunities, the ports you’ll visit on a Bahamas cruise offer relaxation and adventure alike. These are some of the most common stops.
The most populated island in the Bahamas, New Providence Island is home to capital city Nassau and over 70% of the country’s inhabitants. It’s a wonderful place to experience true Bahamian culture. Haggle your way to a deal with local artisans at the country’s largest straw market, or gorge on fresh seafood as you take in the reggae beats at the colorful Fish Fry at Arawak Cay.
The Bahamas’ fourth-largest island, Grand Bahama is home to Lucayan National Park where you’ll find one of the world’s oldest underwater cave systems. Ben’s Cave and Burial Mound Cave are easily accessible by foot. The island’s largest city, Freeport, boasts an abundance of casinos and shops for a completely different experience.
This trio of islands is called on by fewer lines but will see more cruise guests when Virgin Voyages begins including Bimini on its itineraries in 2020. The islands offer unique diving opportunities in black coral gardens or Bimini Road’s mysteriously symmetrical limestone formation. You can also join (or watch) the thrill-seekers at Bimini Wall as they take the plunge down 70 feet into the Gulf Stream.
4. Which cruise lines are best for Bahamas?
Most of the popular cruise lines offer Bahamas cruises departing from the Eastern Seaboard or the Gulf Coast. You’ll find two to nine-night sailings from Carnival, Disney, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and MSC Cruises.
Other than the ship itself, you’ll find that most Bahamas cruise itineraries are fairly similar. The biggest differentiator between cruise lines sailing the Bahamas comes down to two magical words: private island.
Almost every major cruise line owns at least one private island in the Bahamas that only their ships (or affiliated lines) can call on. The island offerings are basically an extension of the cruise line’s brand with each island providing amenities and experiences that are unique to the line.
If you’re wondering which cruise line has the best private island, here’s a breakdown of what to expect from each.
Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day at Coco Cay
After a $200 million makeover, Coco Cay is a top contender for best cruise line private island packed with a plethora of brag-worthy experiences including the tallest waterslide in North America, a cross-island zip line and a helium balloon ride 450 feet in the air.
Norwegian’s Great Stirrup Cay
For a more relaxing, laid-back experience, consider Great Stirrup Cay featured by Norwegian Cruise Line. This island offers watersports like kayaking, parasailing and snorkeling on 15 different mini-reefs. Getting here does require a tender from ship to shore, which could cut down on your beach time.
Disney’s Castaway Cay
Spanning an impressive 1000 acres, Disney Cruise Line extends its meticulous attention to detail to shore with a shipwrecked theme throughout the island. In addition to bike rentals, waterslides and three different beaches around the island, you can also run a 5k race on Castaway Cay!
MSC’s Ocean Cay
A new addition to the private island scene, Ocean Cay will debut in November 2019 after a $200 Million development by MSC. Due to its proximity to Miami, ships can stay in port here as late as 1am allowing guests to enjoy the island’s live music and entertainment options, something you won’t find on other private islands.
We hope you found this article helpful in planning your first or next Bahamas cruise! If you’re looking for a winter escape at an affordable price, look no further than this maritime playground offering something for every type of traveler.