We’ve all seen it – those white sand beaches lapped by crystal clear water where colourful fish swim below. Warm breezes, cocktails and sweet little colonial harbour towns are all on the horizon. No, it’s not too good to be true – that’s just the Bahamas.

The Bahamas are legendary in the cruising world, and as such, there are a huge number of Bahamas cruise deals on offer. Just about every major cruise line offers voyages to the Bahamas, some of which even have access to private islands and stop at places like Miami and Key West on the way down. If you’ve been toying with the idea of heading to this string of 700 islands, cays and islets, we’ll help you find your way with this Bahamas cruise guide.

Top ports of call

Top Bahamas cruises typically tend to revolve around the two major ports of Nassau and Freeport. Quite a few cruise lines own private islands or resort space within the Bahamas too, so depending on what line you choose, you’ll potentially have a few exclusive spots open to you.

Because the nearest island in the Bahamas is just 80 kilometres from Florida, there are a huge range of options as far as cruise lengths go. You can opt for a short four-night cruise with Royal Caribbean® that leaves from Miami, or go big with Norwegian Cruise Line and leave from New York, hitting Florida along the way. It all depends on what exactly you’re after from your Bahamas cruise – private beaches, outdoor adventure, day passes to world-famous resorts – but either way, you can rest assured that holidays out here come in all shapes and sizes.

Here’s a breakdown of Bahamas highlights.

Nassau – Found on the island of New Providence, Nassau is one of the biggies as far as Bahamas cruise ports go. It’s the commercial heart and capital of the Bahamas, rife with big time resorts, colonial architecture and historical pockets highlighting the island’s long relationship with pirates. It’s not the high rise landscape we expect from most cities, but rather a sprawling expanse of pastel-coloured buildings fringed with the beautiful beach scenery the Bahamas is famous for.

Freeport – Freeport maintains the laid-back lifestyle most holidaymakers seek out the Bahamas for. It’s located on the Grand Bahama island and is a huge favourite for adventures of the outdoor variety. We’re talking snorkelling, hiking and caving in the popular Lucayan National Park and beyond.

Private resorts

Princess Cays – This white sand beauty belongs to Princess Cruises and is found on the island of Eleuthera. Here, you’ve got 40 acres of land, a half-mile of which is a white sand beach, a private barbecue put on by the cruise line, watersports and a nearby local craft market.

Half Moon Cay – Also known as Little San Salvador Island, Half Moon Cay is a private island pinprick owned by Carnival Cruise Lines. While pausing here, you can lounge on the powder white beach or dial things up with horseback rides and snorkelling with stingrays.

CocoCay – This Royal Caribbean island is also known as Little Stirrup Cay, and provides cruisers the opportunity to try a little parasailing, embark on a glass bottom boat or kayak through the topaz blue water.

Great Stirrup Cay – Great Stirrup Cay is owned by Norwegian Cruise Line and is a long, skinny spot marked with curvy bays. Activities here include kayaking, snorkelling with sea turtles or lounging in a private cabana, not to mention filling up on complimentary tacos from the Abaco Taco stand.

Top excursions

Straw Market in Nassau – This massive open-air market sells a lot more than straw. Here, you’ll find around 400 vendors selling all the souvenirs your heart desires, including t-shirts, artwork, beach bits, bags and so much more.

Day pass to the Atlantis Resort – The Atlantis Resort is legendary in these parts, and cruisers can buy a day pass here to experience all the highlights before boarding your ship again. It’s located on Paradise Island, which is attached to Grand Bahama, and features a private beach, casino and a pool zone complete with waterfalls, slides and a splash park.

Pirates of Nassau Museum – This interactive museum delves deep into Nassau’s colourful pirate history, complete with a 75-foot indoor pirate ship. You can even couple this museum with tours of Nassau’s pirate sites and forts to create a full-blown swashbuckling extravaganza.

Glass bottom boat rides – Glass bottom boat trips are so popular in the Bahamas, they’re offered by a huge range of cruise lines as shore excursions. They’re a great way to see the water-born sites onboard a ship of a much smaller scale. Below the water’s surface, you’ll see sharks, coral reefs and, if you take a cruise in Freeport, shipwrecks.

What to pack

Steal one look at a promotional image for the Bahamas, and you’ll know instantly what to pack – swimsuits, swimsuits and more swimsuits. That said, you’ll also want other warm weather-appropriate clothing like shorts, t-shirts, sandals and dresses. The weather in the Bahamas rarely dips below the mid-twenties.

If you know you’ll be frequently heading to the beach, you’ll also want to make sure you pack a beach bag to help you transport your gear to and from the ship. Sun cream is a must, and while it’s most likely available in port and on the ship, you’ll want to bring your own to avoid paying higher prices.

Though the Bahaman dollar is the national currency, American dollars are worth the exact same and are accepted for all transactions. You’ll want to have at least a little stash of foreign currency before embarking on your Bahamas cruise so that you can pick up essentials in port.

In addition to beach gear, you’ll also want to pack some variety of formal wear, as your cruise is likely to have a formal night for which you’ll want to dress up. You should always check your cruise itinerary in advance to make sure you know exactly what’s on the schedule, and ensure you’ve packed accordingly.

And most important of all, don’t forget your camera – you won’t want to forget a cruise like this.

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We are acting as an agent on behalf of travel suppliers and your booking will be subject to the supplier’s terms and conditions. Prices may be subject to very limited availability and are correct as at the date and time of writing. Prices may go up or down from time to time. Prices quoted are for the dates, accommodation, board basis, departure points and number of persons sharing specified only and cannot be combined with any other offer. We reserve the right to amend any quotes given if there is a genuine error as soon as we become aware of it. We reserve the right to withdraw any offers without notice.