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Cruise destination spotlight: Bahamas

Bahamas cruises are the ultimate quick getaway. Most lines with dedicated Bahamas sailings offer three- or four-night itineraries. These short trips are ideal for first-time cruisers not ready to commit to a seven-night sailing, busy professionals who can’t take a lot of time off work, or anyone looking for a weekend at the beach.

Cruise ships dock in either Freeport or Nassau. Many Bahamas itineraries include an overnight in Nassau or a visit to the cruise line’s private island (all located on tiny Bahamian cays). Some voyages may stop in Key West or Grand Turk as well.

You can find great weather in the Bahamas year-round. The summer months are the hottest (highs in the 80s) with the highest chance of rain, while the winter months offer the nicest weather with highs in the 70s. The Bahamas lie in the hurricane belt, and it’s possible to get storms from June through November. The fall is typically a cheaper season for island cruises.

Where you’ll go and what you’ll do

Nassau and Freeport are the two main Bahamas ports. Nassau is a city with shopping and some sightseeing options, but it’s best as a jumping-off point for nearby islands. In Nassau, you can choose between jewelry and T-shirt stores and the local straw market selling everything from island crafts to knockoff purses. For great views, head up the Queen’s Staircase to the Water Tower and Fort Fincastle. It’s easy to catch a cab or water taxi from the Nassau port to Paradise Island, home to the Atlantis Resort, where you can visit impressive aquariums or spend the day at the beach. Cruise-line excursions include snorkeling and stingray trips on Pearl Island, glass-bottom boat rides, dolphin swims, and sunbathing on Blackbeard’s Cay.

Freeport, on Grand Bahama Island, is the place to do active excursions. You can choose from biking, kayaking, and snorkeling tours. You can also hit the beach or head to the Port Lucaya Marketplace for some retail therapy.

Many Bahamas itineraries include a stop at the cruise line’s private island. Carnival’s Half Moon Cay, Disney’s Castaway Cay, Norwegian’s Great Stirrup Cay, and Royal Caribbean’s CocoCay combine the joys of pristine island beaches with the convenience factor of the cruise boat. You can spend the day relaxing by or in the water, or mix it up with parasailing, sunfish or banana-boat rides, snorkeling, or even an oceanside massage. The ships bring their food and beverage services ashore, so your beach BBQ lunch doesn’t cost a cent extra.

Which cruise lines sail to the Bahamas?

You’ll find dedicated Bahamas sailings on several major lines. Here’s what the cruise lines are offering:

Carnival: Carnival sails three- to six-night itineraries from Charleston, Jacksonville, Miami, Norfolk, and Port Canaveral/Orlando aboard the Carnival Victory, Celebration, Elation, Fascination, and Sensation.

Disney: Disney offers three- and four-night cruises on the Disney Wonder departing from Port Canaveral/Orlando.

Norwegian: Norwegian runs four- to seven-night Bahamas and Florida cruises from Charleston and New York aboard the Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Majesty, and Norwegian Spirit. It also offers seven-night Bermuda and Bahamas sailings from New York aboard the Norwegian Dawn.

Regent Seven Seas: Regent offers one four-night Bahamas cruise from Ft. Lauderdale aboard the Seven Seas Voyager. The Seven Seas Navigator sails seven-, 10-, and 11-night itineraries from Ft. Lauderdale that include Nassau and Princess Cays as ports-of-call, but aren’t strictly Bahamas sailings.

Royal Caribbean: Royal Caribbean sails three- and four-night cruises departing from Miami and Port Canaveral/Orlando aboard the Majesty of the Seas and Sovereign of the Seas.

Celebrity will offer one two-night cruise to Grand Bahama Island in 2007. Other cruise lines visit Nassau as part of Caribbean itineraries but do not offer dedicated Bahamas sailings. For more information about any Bahamas cruises, contact the cruise line or a travel agent.

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