The 7 best Bahamas cruises for every type of traveler

The best Bahamas cruises take you away from the everyday, 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, 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 in a handful of itineraries on premium lines like Celebrity and Holland America.

The only cruise lines that don’t regularly sail Bahamas cruises are the luxury lines. But don’t worry, lux 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 new to the Margaritaville travel and hospitality franchise, the new 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 also makes this a great cruise to enjoy an escape without spending a fortune. We found weekend sailings that begin at $99 per person.

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 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 with kids of all ages will find entertainment and activities for toddlers to teens. Couples hoping to escape the kiddos can do that also — the adults-only Solarium is a dreamy spot to relax. And while the suites on the ship aren’t the two-deck variety found on some of the line’s newer ships, you still have some fabulous suite options if your aim is a luxury-level cruise.

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

Disney Wish at Castaway Cay. MATT STROSHANE/DISNEY

It has been a decade-long wait for Disney to build a new ship, but Disney dreamers have finally had their wish granted. 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.

The ship is designed to immerse cruisers in the various Disney worlds through technology, some new to the fleet. 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 inside 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 staterooms and suites designed to make cruising with kids simple. But never fear adult Disney fans, you’ll find your spot onboard as well. 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, but that includes Star Wars and Marvel fans.

Related: Best shore excursions for Bahamas cruises

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

Scarlet Lady. COURTESY OF VIRGIN VOYAGES

Virgin Voyages aimed from the very beginning to be a disrupter in the cruise market — creating a product that is designed to please even those who claim they would never set foot on a cruise ship. 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.

But it’s the ship itself that sets the scene for 2,700 sailors, as Virgin calls its passengers. You’ll find unique staterooms (with balcony hammocks), brash red livery and one-of-a-kind onboard activities, such as onboard tattoo parlors, drag shows and ’80s-themed fitness classes.

who should go? This is the best Bahamas cruise for the non-cruiser who is either young at heart or just 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-night cruises on Celebrity Silhouette or Summit from Fort Lauderdale or Miami

Celebrity Silhouette. DIRK SCHWARZ/CELEBRITY CRUISES

If you’re looking for a Bahamas cruise that’s a bit more upscale, Celebrity Cruises offers a series of four- and sometimes five-night sailings between November and April from South Florida ports aboard Celebrity Silhouette and Celebrity Summit. Ports of call include Nassau along with either Bimini or Key West, both of which are fun ports and yours may be the only ship in port at either of them.

Summit is among the line’s smaller ships and carries just over 2,000 passengers, while the decade younger Silhouette has a capacity approaching 3,000. Either ship offers a quieter choice for a Bahamas cruise when compared to the big-ship, mass-market lines that cruise there year-round. Think posh resort more than theme park. Neither ship has slides or extravagant water play features. Children are welcome and the line has a kids’ program onboard, but overall, the ship is geared toward couples, with the average age onboard over 50.

Who should go? Celebrity’s ships are best left to lovers of a less frenetic style of cruising. They are ideal for girls’ getaways, with a ritzy spa and lots of places to sit and visit both indoors and out on the pool deck. Cruisers looking for a luxurious Bahamas cruise experience can take their escape from the world a step further by choosing a suite in The Retreat, which includes an exclusive sun deck, lounge and the Luminae restaurant, available only to suite guests.

Related: Best time to cruise to the Bahamas

5-night cruises on Carnival Freedom from Port Canaveral

Carnival Freedom. COURTESY OF CARNIVAL CRUISES

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 that can be disruptive on shorter Bahamas cruises.

Carnival Cruise Line offers two different five-night routes aboard Carnival Freedom. One has stops in Nassau, the Princess Cays private island and a bonus stop in Turks and Caicos. The other route has two sea days with stops in Bimini and Turks and Caicos. Carnival alternates the five-night routes with four-nighters, making extended cruises possible by booking back-to-back sailings.

Carnival Freedom carries just under 3,000 cruisers and has something to offer almost everyone at an affordable price. In particular, Carnival is known for providing multiple free food options to choose from — and the food is good. The ship has top-deck water features, a Serenity adults-only sun deck, and a dedicated comedy club.

Who should go? This cruise is the best Bahamas cruise for budget-conscious cruisers. If your goal is to get to the islands on the cheap, try Carnival Freedom. Other than during peak December holidays, the five-night sailings on Freedom are priced almost the same as the four-night sailings.

8-night cruises on Carnival Dream from Galveston, Texas

Carnival Dream. DANNY LEHMAN/CARNIVAL CRUISES

Not all Bahamas cruises sail from ports in Florida. Carnival Dream has a capacity of just under 4,000 and operates a fun itinerary from Galveston that includes stops at Nassau, Freeport, the Half Moon Cay private island and Key West. As Key West continues to downsize its cruise ship capacity, any cruise that calls there feels like a bonus.

You’ll find plenty of attractions on this ship to fill three days at sea. For food, you can nosh at not one, but two Guy Fieri eateries—Guy’s Burger Joint and Guy’s Pig and Anchor Smokehouse. The Cloud 9 Spa is idyllic and there are spa staterooms in every category that include unlimited access to the thermal suite and hydrotherapy pool.

I love that Carnival Dream has some affordable cabins that don’t fit the normal description. For example, the Interior with Picture Window is more like an obstructed oceanview cabin but is priced as if it has no view at all. Also in the interior category are rooms with only upper and lower bunks — some of them with porthole windows. These could be a fun room for a single parent cruising with one child.

Who should go? This is the best Bahamas cruise for anyone looking for a weeklong cruise that doesn’t break the bank but still offers plenty of onboard fun and a broad range of stateroom options.

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 offering among Bahamas itineraries, there are options for almost every cruising style. The key is finding the cruise that fits your style, your preferred activities and your vacation budget.

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