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The best Bahamas cruises for every type of traveler


The best Bahamas cruises take you away from the daily grind, transporting you to theme park-like private islands and beach-lined paradises. Cruise choices include new and jazzed-up ships sailing an array of short and weeklong Bahamas itineraries. Cruising to the Bahamas is so easy you may even be able to go without a passport.

Family-friendly lines, such as Royal Caribbean, Disney Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Line, offer cruises focused on the Bahamas all year. So do newcomers Virgin Voyages, with its adults-only sailings, and Margaritaville at Sea, offering short two-night hops and longer cruise-and-stay packages. The winter and early spring seasons bring a handful of itineraries on premium lines like Celebrity Cruises and Holland America.

The only cruise lines that don’t regularly offer Bahamas cruises are the luxury lines. But don’t worry, luxe lovers: Many of the ships we included on our list of the best Bahamas cruises offer suites that come with concierge services, private enclaves or special spa privileges. If a luxury cruise to the Bahamas is your goal, look at the top suite options on a mainstream or premium line.

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Whether you’re looking for a quick and cheap getaway or a week at the beach, here are the best Bahamas cruise itineraries to start your search, in order from shortest to longest.

2-night cruises on Margaritaville at Sea Paradise from Palm Beach, Florida

Margaritaville at Sea Paradise. THE MCBRIDE COMPANY

Though cruising is relatively new to the Margaritaville travel and hospitality franchise, cruise line Margaritaville at Sea is essentially a rebranding of the old Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line. Its refurbished ship, Paradise, originally debuted in the 1990s for Costa Cruises.

One Jimmy Buffett-themed makeover later, the ship is a perfect fit for the laid-back vibe of the Bahamas. Grab a drink or a bite to eat from the 5 o’Clock Somewhere Bar & Grill, try your luck at the Par-A-Dice Casino and enjoy plenty of entertainment, including the musical production, “Tales from Margaritaville: Jimmy’s Ship Show.” There’s a kids club, a teen club, a spa and two pools stocked with beach balls and inflatable parrots.

The two-night cruise itinerary includes one day in Freeport, where you can shop, hit the casino, enjoy water sports or chill on the beach. The ship offers shore excursions, or you can explore independently. Margaritaville at Sea also offers cruise-and-stay itineraries of either four or six nights (including the two nights onboard the ship). These packages let you choose between two partner hotels in Freeport, where you’ll stay two or four nights on land, then hop back on the ship for your return night at sea.

Margaritaville at Sea Paradise carries around 1,300 passengers in an assortment of inside and ocean-view cabins, all around 176 square feet, which is larger than the average for those categories on most mainstream ships. Ten suites with balconies are also available, with 524 square feet of space.

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Who should go? Obviously, Parrotheads are gonna want to try this ship, with all its Jimmy Buffett-inspired themes and decor, but it’s also a good trial run for anyone on the fence about cruising. Pricing makes this a great cruise to enjoy an escape without spending a fortune. We found weekday sailings that begin at $99 per person based on double occupancy for an inside cabin.

Related: Best Bahamas cruise tips for first-timers and repeat visitors alike

3- or 4-night cruises on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas from Miami

Freedom of the Seas docked at Perfect Day at CocoCay. ROYAL CARIBBEAN

This itinerary may be the best overall short Bahamas cruise. Both the three- and four-night cruises have stops at Nassau and Royal Caribbean‘s massive private island — Perfect Day at CocoCay. Those two stops combined give cruisers the opportunity to enjoy water sports, spend some time at the beach and experience a bit of Bahamian culture.

Freedom of the Seas has plenty of onboard fun to occupy travelers of all ages on sea days. It’s loaded with top-deck slides and water features, specialty restaurant choices and more entertainment options than you can take in on a short cruise. Carrying around 4,000 cruise guests, Freedom of the Seas is big enough to impress without being overwhelming.

Plus, logistics for cruising out of Miami are simple enough for even first-time cruisers. From flight choices to pre- or post-cruise hotels, it’s a city that caters to tourists, especially the cruising ones.

Who should go? From first-timers to veteran cruisers, anyone looking for a short but fun-filled hop to the Bahamas should give Freedom of the Seas a look. Families looking for a quick escape will find entertainment and activities for toddlers to teens. The ship is also ideal for family reunions, bachelorette parties and birthday cruises. Couples will love the adults-only Solarium with its extra-large hot tubs looking out over the sea.

Related: Bahamas cruise packing list: What to pack for the islands

3- or 4-night cruises on Royal Caribbean’s Utopia of the Seas from Port Canaveral, Florida

An artist’s rendering of Utopia of the Seas. ROYAL CARIBBEAN

When Royal Caribbean’s giant Utopia of the Seas debuts in July 2024, it will offer a bevy of short sailings, including three- and four-night sailings from Port Canaveral, Florida. The 236,860-ton, 5,669-passenger vessel will be the second-largest cruise ship in the world and offer more exciting amenities than any other cruise ship sailing short itineraries in North America.

Why? The newest, biggest ships in the world typically sail longer cruises. Offering short cruises on its humongous Oasis Class ships is new for Royal Caribbean; sister ship Allure of the Seas will test out the concept before Utopia launches.

Families with kids will definitely go bananas over the choices on board the new ship. The top deck alone will feature three separate pool areas, a surfing simulator, a kiddie splash zone, a basketball court, two rock walls, a miniature golf course and even a zip line.

The ship will also boast an extensive selection of restaurants, bars, lounges and shops. Additionally, there will be an indoor skating rink, a spa and a showroom with Broadway-style shows.

Utopia of the Seas’ inaugural voyage is set for July 22, 2024, and will be a four-night cruise to Nassau and the line’s private island, Perfect Day at CocoCay. The second sailing will be a three-night cruise to the Bahamas that departs on July 26, 2024.

Who should go? Short sailings on this new ship will appeal to all sorts of cruisers. Historically, new ships are reserved for longer itineraries, so this is a fantastic opportunity to enjoy a snack-size sampling of a brand-new ship without spending the money on a longer sailing.

Families craving a quick getaway where the entire brood is satisfied will not be disappointed. In addition to seemingly endless kid-friendly amenities and top-notch children’s programming, Utopia of the Seas will feature a casino and adults-only spaces.

Related: These 2 cruise lines are building new private destinations in the Bahamas

3- or 4-night cruises on Disney Wish from Port Canaveral, Florida

Disney Wish at Castaway Cay. MATT STROSHANE/DISNEY

Disney waited a decade to build its next new ship, but Disney dreamers had their wish granted in 2022. Even better, the new Disney Wish cruises to the Bahamas. Designed to be the perfect complement to a visit to Orlando’s Disney theme parks, these short cruises visit Nassau and Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. The four-night itinerary adds a sea day to enjoy the ship.

Disney Wish is designed to immerse cruisers in the various Disney worlds through technology. An onboard augmented reality game turns the Disney Cruise Line Navigator smartphone app into a virtual spyglass that lets cruisers participate in a fantasy adventure with Disney and Pixar characters. The AquaMouse waterslide combines a splashy tube ride in a two-seater raft with a pre-adventure tale told through screens at the beginning of the ride. Diners at the Worlds of Marvel restaurant take part in an interactive Avengers-themed experience through videos and special effects.

Wish carries 4,000 passengers in cabins and suites designed to simplify cruising with kids. But never fear, adult Disney fans; you’ll also find your spot on board. From the “Star Wars”-themed Hyperspace Lounge to the Quiet Cove adults-only sun deck, Disney manages to cater to grownups as well as kids.

Who should go? This is obviously the best Bahamas cruise for lovers of all things Disney, including “Star Wars” and Marvel fans.

Related: Best shore excursions for Bahamas cruises

3- or 4-night cruises on Celebrity Reflection from Fort Lauderdale

Celebrity Reflection. CELEBRITY CRUISES

Beginning in April 2024, Celebrity Cruises will sail three- and four-night voyages round-trip from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, year-round.

The 3,046-passenger Celebrity Reflection will offer a consistent rotation of three-night weekend cruises (departing each Friday and returning each Monday morning) and four-night weekday sailings (departing each Monday and returning each Friday morning).

Itineraries will include stops at Key West in Florida and Nassau and Bimini in the Bahamas.

Celebrity appeals mostly to the 40-plus set sans small children. It’s light on the kid-centric attractions (such as waterslides, go-karts and laser tag) that other big-ship lines include. The line offers instead lots of quiet and relaxing pool and lounge areas. (If you do have kids in tow, you can take advantage of the extensive children’s program, Camp at Sea. It provides supervised activities daily for children ages 3-12 in dedicated spaces.)

Celebrity Reflection is the line’s last and largest Solstice Class cruise ship. The Solstice Class ships feature some of the most stylish outdoor pool decks at sea, with indoor, adults-only pool areas that, notably, are topped with glass panels embedded with solar panels that contribute to the ship’s power grid. You’ll also find large spas, casinos, showrooms and a nice selection of restaurants on board.

This ship also boasts one of the most spectacular suites in the cruising world — the 1,646-square-foot Reflection Suite. It was the first two-bedroom suite on a Celebrity Cruises vessel.

Who should go? This an ideal cruise for older travelers who are new to cruising and want to sample one or frequent cruisers who might prefer a shorter time at sea. Although Celebrity doesn’t draw many families with young children, the shorter Bahamas itineraries are also perfect for multigenerational family groups seeking an affordable cruise that appeals to all ages.

4-night cruises on Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady from Miami

Scarlet Lady. VIRGIN VOYAGES

Virgin Voyages aimed to be a disrupter in the cruise market from the beginning — creating a product designed to please even those who claim they would never set foot on a cruise ship. Yet the itinerary for this four-night Bahamas cruise on Scarlet Lady is fairly ordinary. Ports of call include Key West and a private beach club on the Bahamian island of Bimini.

It’s the ship itself that sets this cruise apart from the pack. You’ll find unique cabins (with balcony hammocks), brash red livery and one-of-a-kind onboard activities, such as tattoo parlors, drag shows and ’80s-themed fitness classes, to keep its 2,700 sailors (as Virgin calls its passengers) entertained.

Who should go? This is the best Bahamas cruise for the non-cruiser who is either young at heart or young and eager to party aboard this glitzy ship. If you’re easily offended by loud music, round-the-clock partying or sexual innuendo, this is not your Bahamas cruise.

4-day cruises on Norwegian Jade from Miami

Norwegian Jade. MICHEL VERDURE/NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE

Norwegian Cruise Line offers four-day sailings from Miami aboard Norwegian Jade. Ports of call include Key West and Great Stirrup Cay, the line’s private island.

Port diversions consist of touring the Key West Shipwreck Treasures Museum and the Key West Aquarium, shopping along Nassau’s Bay Street and exploring the white-sand beaches and pristine waters on Great Stirrup Cay.

The 2,402-passenger vessel is part of the line’s Jewel class of ships. Though the ship launched in 2006, it received a substantial refurbishment in 2017 that included a cabin remodel, new and expanded dining and a design overhaul.

Norwegian Jewel might not have the extensive top-deck attractions of newer ships, like Norwegian Prima, or as many restaurants and bars. However, passengers will find plenty to occupy their time onboard with scheduled activities, a casino, spa and pool areas.

Who should go? Families, couples and friend groups will appreciate the unstructured nature of a Norwegian cruise. The line’s “freestyle cruising” mantra — cruising without rigid dining schedules, dress codes and formal nights — is perfectly suited for short sailings. With a wide range of eateries and no assigned seating times, passengers have lots of flexibility for their limited time at sea.

Related: Best time to cruise to the Bahamas

5-night cruises on Carnival Sunshine from South Carolina

Carnival Sunshine. CARNIVAL CRUISE LINE

I am a huge lover of five-night sailings. They are long enough to scratch the cruise itch and short enough to account for travel time to and from the port without adding any extra vacation days. Plus, the slightly longer itineraries are less popular with hard partiers who can be disruptive on shorter Bahamas cruises.

Carnival Cruise Line offers 10 different five-night sailings from Charleston, South Carolina, aboard the 3,002-passenger Carnival Sunshine. It’s currently Carnival’s oldest ship (it debuted in 1996 under the name Carnival Destiny). However, in 2013, the line gave it a $200 million bow-to-stern glow-up and renamed it Carnival Sunshine. The overhaul produced a new top-deck WaterWorks water park, a comedy club and several bars, lounges and restaurants.

Depending on which itinerary you choose, you can chill out on the beaches of Bimini, shop Nassau’s iconic straw market or go horseback riding by the shore of Carnival’s private island, Half Moon Cay. Consider a pre- or post-cruise stay in Charleston to take in the city’s historic landmarks, epic dining and charming cobblestone streets.

Who should go? These cruises are the best Bahamas sailings for those who prefer the intimacy of an older ship and don’t care about flashy amenities and onboard attractions on newer vessels. Plus, they’re ideal for travelers who live north of Florida and are looking for a more convenient drive-to departure port.

8-night cruises on Carnival Venezia from New York City

Carnival Venezia. DANNY LEHMAN/CARNIVAL CRUISE LINE

The 4,090-passenger Carnival Venezia is a bit of an outlier in Carnival Cruise Line’s fleet. Originally built for Italy-based Costa Cruises and launched in 2019, it joined the Carnival family in May 2023. (Carnival Corporation is the parent company of both Costa and Carnival.)

The ship was renovated to add many of Carnival’s signature venues. However, many of its Costa-aligned, Italian-themed designs remain, including a real gondola “sailing” down the middle of its main dining room and a pool deck built to look like a Venetian boulevard.

Guests might feel like they’ve been whisked away to Italy thanks to regional touches like the handmade Italian gelato at JavaBlue Cafe and the Italian liqueur-infused concoctions found at many bars.

Two eight-night voyages out of New York City include stops at Freeport, Nassau and Half Moon Cay.

Who should go? This Bahamas cruise is ideal for anyone looking for a different Carnival experience during a weeklong cruise. It’s almost like traveling to Italy and the Bahamas in one trip.

Bottom line

The best Bahamas cruises offer something cruisers can’t quite get enough of — whether it’s beach time or party time. While short sailings are still the most popular Bahamas itineraries, you can find options for almost every cruising style. The key is identifying the cruise that fits your style, preferred activities and vacation budget.

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