Cruise Ships, New Providence, Bahamas (credit: Thinkstock)
What better way to see the Bahamas than onboard a popular cruise liner? With a variety of staterooms to meet anyone’s budget and a wealth of dining and entertainment options, a trip onboard a cruise ship should be experienced at least once in a lifetime. Due to its close proximity to Florida, the most convenient trips to the Bahamas can be found in places like Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Port Canaveral. But American travelers can also book a cruise from several other stateside cities, including Mobile, Galveston, New Orleans, Charleston and even New York City. Here are just five of the very best cruises to the Bahamas.
This year’s Cruisers’ Choice winner for best overall cruise, Disney Dream offers three and four-day cruises to the Bahamas from Port Canaveral in Florida. A top-rated large cruise ship, Disney Dream’s maiden cruise was in 2011 and has a maximum capacity of 4,000 passengers with 1,250 well-appointed staterooms, including 21 suites on the verandah. The award-winning cruise offers a wealth of onboard entertainment, including three swimming pools, youth clubs in four different age categories, the one-of-a-kind Aquaduck, live show and restaurants, nightclubs and lounges. Port Canaveral is located approximately 53 miles from Orlando, with ports of call in Nassau and Castaway Cay. Disney Cruise Line’s exclusive private island for guests is also on Bahamian and Caribbean cruises.
For those looking for a longer journey through the Bahamas, the popular Celebrity Reflection is a noteworthy choice. Rated the third best cruise to the Bahamas by Cruisers’ Choice, Celebrity Reflection offers convenient departures from Fort Lauderdale and nearby Miami, with trips ranging from as low as four days to up to 14 days on its Ultimate Caribbean Cruise. The 1,047-foot long cruise ship has a guest capacity of 3,030, with 1,523 guest rooms spread across 13 guest decks. Celebrity’s industry-leading onboard experience offers something for all ages, including a video arcade, three swimming pools, live entertainment, casino gaming, several bars and lounges and upscale spa services. Of the 12 dining venues onboard, six are specialty restaurants, including the enormous central restaurant Opus, with a seating capacity of 1,460, and the superb French restaurant Murano. Departures on the Celebrity Reflection are from Miami and may feature Celebrity Cruises’ exclusive port of calls like CocoCay or Labadee and other popular destinations like Charlotte Amalie in the U.S. Virgin islands, San Juan, Puerto Rico and Cozumel.
Christened in late 2010, Royal Caribbean’s massive Allure of the Seas is currently the largest passenger cruise ship in the world. The signature ship from the cruise line named Best in the Caribbean for the past 12 consecutive years features 2,752 comfortable staterooms with a guest capacity of 6,410, in addition to the 2,384 crew members onboard. The 1,187-foot-long super cruise liner features 18 total decks, 16 of which are for guests, 24 passenger elevators and seven distinct neighborhoods featuring upscale retail stores, complimentary dining and a myriad of onboard entertainment and activities. Among the featured entertainment highlights are two FlowRider surf simulators, an 82-foot-long zip line, an ice skating rink, four swimming pools, 25 dining options and an outdoor promenade known as Central Park. Allure of the Seas also offers “farm to ship” fine dining at 150 Park Central, led by James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz. Seven-night cruises are available from Fort Lauderdale and ports of calls may include Nassau, St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands and St. Maarten, as well as Labadee and CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s private island resorts jointly served by sister lines from Celebrity Cruises.
Known as an excellent value for the money, the Norwegian Gem offers seven and eight-night cruises year round to the Bahamas from Manhattan and Port Canaveral. The newest of Norwegian Cruise Line’s Jewel class of cruise ships had its maiden voyage in 2007 with a guest capacity of 2,394 and 1,094 crew members. In all, there are 1,197 staterooms, including 360 with balconies, 785 with ocean views and 182 suites. Norwegian Cruise line offers Freestyle Cruising on board its crews liners, which allows passengers to dine at any of the complimentary restaurants without having a specified time to be seated. Also enjoy Freestyle Fun such as casino gaming, world-class entertainment and Freestyle Accommodations, with a diverse collection of rooms. The Norwegian Gem also features 12 passenger decks, an art gallery, a four-lane bowling alley, a basketball-tennis court, swimming pools and hot tubs, kids club, spa and fitness center and the 1,042-seat Stardust Theater. In addition to Bahamian port of calls such as Nassau and Norwegian’s private island Great Stirrup Cay, the cruise ship also offers stops at such places as San Juan, St. Thomas, Philipsburg in St. Maarten and Bridgetown in Barbados.
The Carnival Victory is just one of the many popular cruise ships that serve the Bahamas from the world’s largest cruise operator. Launched 16 years ago, the nearly 900-foot-long cruise ship accommodates up to 3,470 guests across 13 passenger decks, along with a crew of approximately 1,110. The 1,379 guest staterooms include 42 lavish suites on the ocean view balcony and eight Grand Suites. Carnival Victory has a sizable collection of onboard activities, many of which are family-friendly. These include “Dive-In Movies,” Twister Water Slide, world-class entertainment at Carnival Live and four swimming pools, in addition to more adult-oriented forms of entertainment such as 18 bars and lounges and Vegas-style gaming. Cruise lengths to the Bahamas run as low as two days and up to nine days with departures from Port Canaveral and Miami.
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he received a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com