The Best Cruises to the Bahamas
A cruise to the Bahamas is a tempting vacation treat—so close by, and yet so sunny and warm, just when you’re craving a seaside escape. The allure of white sand as soft as powdered sugar, and the appeal of pale blue water to chill your warm skin, is undeniable. Once there, you can also snorkel, dive, and admire the fish-filled reefs that are common in this part of the world.
So why aren’t you sailing there now? After all, there are lots of embarkation ports to choose from: Miami, Port Canaveral (near Orlando), Fort Everglades (Fort Lauderdale), and even New York City. Indeed, if you choose to depart from Manhattan’s West Side cruise ship terminal, you may save yourself a flight if you live within driving distance, but you will add on several days until you reach the sand-in-your-toes islands of the Bahamas. Once there, you can get a day-pass to a popular resort and be by the surf while the hotel guests are still waking up.
Another unique appeal of the Bahamas, when compared to other warm and beachy cruise destinations, is the temptation of private islands. These “islands”—often just peninsulas, or acres of land gated off from the rest of the isle—serve as hotel-less resort areas for use exclusively by cruise ships. You’ll find a whole slew of fabulous amenities: think lounge chairs, water sports, 5K challenges, cabanas for rent, BBQ cookouts, adults-only beaches, and yes, even water slides, splash parks, swimming pools, zip lines and roller coasters. In addition, when you visit one of these private islands, you can also sign up for shore excursions that include snorkeling trips and boat rides. Best of all, if you want to just lie in the sand ordering frozen drinks all day, the lines make that as easy as waving your arm in the air.
Here, some of the ships that sail to this gorgeous destination.
Sherri Eisenberg is the Editorial Director of ShermansCruise.com, a new cruise deals and advice site.
Anthem of the Seas
This is the second ship in Royal Caribbean’s ground-breaking Quantum-class, with a capacity of 4,180 passengers. On a seven- or eight-night cruise from Cape Liberty, New Jersey, down to the Bahamas, you can enjoy some of the floating palace’s over-the-top amenities: a sky-diving simulator; the North Star, a viewing capsule that extends out over the sea; and bumper cars at the sprawling Seaplex. And once you’re in the Bahamas, you’ll of course call on Coco Cay, Royal Caribbean’s private island, where you can snorkel, Jet-ski, or just lounge under the sun.
Disney Cruise Line’s 4,000-passenger ship sails three-, four-, and five-night cruises frequently from Port Canaveral to Nassau and Castaway Cay, the line’s spectacular private island. Sure, the sailings are short, but Disney packs their itineraries full of more activities for every age group than they could ever do. For teens, there’s a club and DJ lessons; for younger kids there are Scavenger hunts and the opportunity to push the Millenium Falcon into warp speed in the kid’s club. And the littlest cruisers? They’ll want to line up for the meet-and-greets with princesses, including Anna and Elsa.
This 3,969-passenger ship from Norwegian Cruise Line is the line’s homage to Manhattan, with a hot dog cart on the deck, cannoli by TV's “Cake Boss,” an ice bar with replicas of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Chrysler Building, and a Rockette-inspired dance class. So it’s no surprise to hear that you can set sail on Breakaway out of Manhattan, and take seven-day cruises down to either Bermuda or the Bahamas. Bahamas sailings include calls on the line’s private island, Great Stirrup Cay.
This ship, the first from MSC Cruises to focus on North American travelers, is still full of European treats even though it sails out of Miami. The cruises to the Bahamas range from mini three-night sailings all the way up to 10-, 11- and even 21-day options for those with more vacation time. Look for an Eataly restaurant and a Vencchi gelato spot by the pool, as well as aqua cycling classes and a water park for kids.
Starting this fall, Disney Cruise Line, the most high-end family-friendly cruise line, will begin sailing out of New York City on seven- and eight-day sailings down to the Bahamas on its original ship. Onboard the Disney Magic, you’ll find a Brazilian steakhouse, the Aquadunk water slide—which shoots out over the edge of the ship—and kids clubs that include a Marvel Comics section and Tinkerbell’s dress-up closet. Trust us, you won’t be able to drag your little ones away from the club.
Princess Cruises’ newest ship, Regal Princess, does a seven-day sailing out of Fort Lauderdale that includes a call in Princess Cay, the line’s Bahamian Island. In addition, you get to see Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and either Montego Bay or Grand Turk (depending on the sailing). Onboard, there’s a gelato shop, an impressive pizza parlor, and an adults-only lounge with gorgeous cabanas. Just be sure to book yours early; they fill up fast.
This ship—the sister of Norwegian Breakaway—doesn’t just cruise to the Bahamas from Miami. It also celebrates the culture of its home port with a mojito bar, a Latin dance performance, and plenty of Cuban food. Onboard, you can dine at a supper club or OceanBlue, the seafood restaurant that features South Florida catches. Both ships also have a wide range of cabin options, including a large number of studio cabins for solo travelers, as well as large suites with a shared concierge and pool area called Haven by Norwegian.
This 2,100-passenger Holland America ship was refurbished in December, and now it has all the line’s coolest new features, from the Gallery Bar—home to a trendy cocktail menu by famed mixologist Dale Degrofff—to a trio of music venues, an upgrade that’s sure to wow passengers in the evenings. The line had partnered with B.B. King’s Blues Club, and now they also have a Lincoln Center partnership and a Billboard partnership, too. In addition, the ship also has the Dive-in poolside restaurant, which does gourmet burgers, hot dogs, and sandwiches. Our favorite? We think the Portobello with smoked gouda is the perfect snack in the sun as you sail from Fort Lauderdale toward the Bahamas.