Caribbean - Bahamas Cruise Guide

beach in the Bahamas
Beach at Atlantis resort in Nassau, The Bahamas - by Thinkstock

Why go?

With an average of 315 days of sunshine a year, white-sand beaches — in some places, pink ones! — and clear blue water, it’s no surprise that the Bahamas attract approximately 5 to 6 million people each year. With the closest port to this 700-island country only 55 miles off the coast of Florida, you’re just a quick cruise away from a tropical haven.

While Bahamas cruise itineraries differ based on embarkation port and cruise line, there are two ubiquitous ports of call. Nassau, located on New Providence, is often the first stop. It’s the largest city and capital of the island nation, and crowds can sometimes be overwhelming. Spending the day at Atlantis on Paradise Island is one of the most popular things to do while docked in Nassau. Many cruise lines sell day passes for the resort that grant various levels of access to the beach, dolphin experiences, water park, and restaurants. You can also scuba dive with sharks, learn about the history of Nassau at the Pirates Museum, and tour the dungeons and underground lairs of 18th-century Fort Charlotte.

Freeport, Grand Bahama Island, is the other major Bahamas cruise port. Offering an interesting blend of historical sites, natural wonders, and modern amenities, this port town may just have something for everyone. Golfers flock to the two courses: The Reef and the Lucayan; nature lovers spend time hiking and bird watching in Lucayan National Park; laid-back types soak up the rays on the soft white-sand beaches; and thrill-seekers rip through the water on personal watercraft, paddle out in kayaks, ride horses on the shore, and snorkel around coral reefs. 

When to go

With several budget- and family-friendly cruise lines offering two- to eight-day itineraries, both mini-getaways and extended vacations to the Bahamas are possible all year long.

The trade winds ensure year-round warm weather, with winter temperatures averaging 70 degrees F, and summer temperatures consistently between 80 and 90 degrees. However, hurricane season should always be taken into consideration when booking. It officially spans June through November, with storms historically becoming more active in August and September. Hurricanes can also head toward the U.S. mainland, potentially affecting your embarkation port, so it’s a good idea to stay on top of weather alerts and consider travel insurance to protect your investment.

While the possibility of showers is a constant on any tropical island, the Bahamas have an official rainy season that runs from May through October, overlapping the hurricane season. The northern islands — Grand Bahama, New Providence, Great Abaco, and Andros — typically see twice as much rain as the southern islands. And although heavy showers often pass quickly, they still have the potential to put a damper on your day of fun in the sun.

June through September may technically be considered the low season, but it remains the most popular time for families with kids to cruise to the islands because of school vacations. The month of March is also a busy time, when rowdy spring breakers flood the area. High season is during North America’s winter months, as an influx of people look for relief from the cold weather.

Our advice: To avoid crowded ships and ports, travel between mid-April and mid-May (just before hurricane season) or mid-September (after Labor Day) through mid-November. These are also the times to find great deals, with most people at work and kids in school.  

Routes

There are three factors that will determine your Bahamas cruise route: cruise line, trip length, and embarkation port. Southern Florida ports are close enough to allow for two- and three-night cruises with one or two stops, typically in Nassau and Freeport. Leaving from New York; Baltimore; New Orleans; Norfolk, Virginia; or Charleston, South Carolina, will require a longer time at sea, so four- to eight-night trips are necessary from these cities.

Cruise lines that own private islands — including Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, and Royal Caribbean International —typically port in Nassau and their island on shorter sailings, and add on Key West, Florida, or Freeport on longer itineraries. 

Cruise Lines That Sail Caribbean - Bahamas

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