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The Ultimate Cruise Destination Guide: Bahamas

The Bahamas is a stunning collection of over 700 islands and 2400 cays, glistening like jewels in the Atlantic. The capital, Nassau, is one of the most popular cruise ports in the world welcoming over 1-million passengers a year and almost all of the cruise line’s private islands are part of this breath-taking archipelago.


Technically the Bahamas are not in the Caribbean, but most Eastern Caribbean itineraries will make a stop here and, given its close proximity to the coast of Florida, it’s fantastic as a short add on cruise of 3, 4 or 5 nights, as part of a longer cruise-and-stay holiday. You can cruise to the Bahamas all year-round, but it’s best to avoid hurricane season – September to Mid-November. High season is from December to April and there are still some fantastic deals to be found in off-peak time too. You can cruise to the Bahamas over and over, and still find something new to do, but here are some of cruiser’s favourite things to do...


Nassau

Cable Beach in Nassau is one of the best in the Bahamas, with stunning white sand, and warm, crystal-clear waters. It’s like relaxing in a bath rather than swimming in the sea! A lot of the resorts have stretches of the beach you can relax on, but there is also a wide expanse for public use. To make the most of a day at the beach, you buy a resort day pass and access sun-loungers, towels, and maybe even some free drinks! You can go kayaking or jet skiing, and there are lots of local vendors selling their wares. Don’t be afraid to barter with these guys!


If you want to explore like the famous Captain Blackbeard – Nassau’s old “Pirate Republic” magistrate –, you’re going to have to get yourself some rum, and where better than John

Watling’s Distillery. Set on the famed Buena Vista Estate in historic down-town Nassau, you can discover how handmade rum is produced, using old English rum-making methods. Of course, you get to sample a rum cocktail or two (the mango daiquiris are to die for), and enjoy the Caribbean sun on the

Watling’s Distillery grounds.


Ardastra Gardens, Zoo & Conservation Centre is a cute and charming little zoo, with quiet and serene gardens, making it a perfect stop, off the beaten-track. There’s plenty to see and do, with snakes, lemurs, iguanas, a Bird Feeding Experience (where you can feed Lory Parrots), and an incredible Marching Flamingo show (undoubtedly the highlight of your visit). Keep your eyes peeled for stunning white Peacock that makes its rounds of Ardastra!


Want to plunge down a water slide and through a tank of sharks? How about taking on the thrilling mile-long river rapids? Aquaventure – Atlantis Paradise Island – is the place for you! It’s a one-of-a-kind 140-acre waterpark, with 20 swimming areas, Atlantean-themed towers, waterslides, rapids, and 11 unique

pools. Not only that, but there is an aquarium giving you the opportunity to get up-close-and-personal with some Bahamian marine life, as well as a shopping mall and casino, something for everyone. It can get busy if there are a lot of ships in port, so make sure you get there early!


And finally, Versailles Gardens on Paradise Island (just across from Downtown Nassau) is a beautifully maintained area set next to a 12th century Augustine Monastary. It’s a green paradise teeming with wildlife, dotted with koi ponds and completed by the breath-taking views out over the sea and of the harbour. Split into two, both parts of the gardens are well worth discovering!


Caribbean Private Islands

Most of the major cruise lines own their own beaches or even islands in the Caribbean and it gives you a chance to relax in your own private bit of paradise. Here are just a few of cruising favourites!

Castaway Cay – Disney Cruise Lines

Castaway Cay really is the crème de la crème of private islands, with 1000-acres used exclusively for Disney passengers and fantastic features for both children or adults.


One of Castaway Cay’s main advantages is that you don't have to travel by tender, like plenty of other cruise lines, meaning you can come and go as you please, travelling from the dock straight to the action! For kids, there is a huge floating play area, with fake flotsam and jetsam, water cannons and slides, and they have their own beach at Scuttle Cove. Teenagers aren't at all neglected...they also have their own private beach, where they can kayak, play volleyball and even design, build and race their own boats. Once the kids are away, the adults can play. Make your way over to Serenity Bay (an adults-only haven) where you can sip a cocktail, get a massage, or just unwind in your own private cabana. If you want to explore, then bikes can be hired, giving you the chance to discover the island at your own pace.


Top Tip: Make sure you go snorkelling, there are some Disney characters for you to find in the waters.


Labadee – Royal Caribbean

Since Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines introduced the Oasis-class Mega ships, passengers have been able to benefit from a proper dock at the isolated, 270-acre peninsula in Haiti, shared by the classy passengers of Celebrity Cruises. Unlike most private islands, Labadee offers a taste of the island's culture, with local

bands playing music at the many restaurants, and local crafts are for sale.


The most popular attraction at Labadee is Dragon’s Breath - a 2800-foot zip line which takes you over Dragon’s Tail Beach and down to sea level. There are five beaches in total - so finding one to suit you won’t be a problem. There is also a huge pirate-themed water play area to keep the kids entertained, with kayaking and parasailing for the more adventurous (and more grown-up).


Top Tip: The further away from the dock, the quieter the beaches become so if you are looking for isolation, head out.


Great Stirrup Cay – Norwegian Cruise Line

This is the cruise line private island that started them all - a sandy haven in the Southern Bahamas and the first island to be developed by a cruise line. It's rich in history and was used by the Americans as an operations base in World War II.


The beach is always buzzing when ships are in port, with barbeques and pina coladas in abundance. The cruise line often holds 'Olympic'-style competitions and there are water sports and plenty of other beach sports on offer. You can also jump in and swim with stingrays, or take a ride down the 175-foot inflatable water slide!


Top Tip: If the main bar is looking busy, there are two quieter ones on the east side of the beach.


Half Moon Cay – Holland America Line

One of the most beautiful of the private islands, Half Moon Cay is a 55-acre private beach on Little San Salvador Island, and the rest of the island is an International Bird Sanctuary. Carnival Cruise Line shares Half Moon Cay with Holland America when HAL ships aren’t in port.


The ultra-soft beach is the island’s biggest draw, with sun-loungers available to rent, and the opportunity to indulge and hire an air-conditioned, private cabana. A tram-ride will take you further out, to excursions like horse riding through the surf and kayaking. Deep sea fishing and diving is always something to enjoy too!


Top Tip: If you fancy spending just a little bit extra, you can hire a cabana butler - who has access to an open bar.


Princess Cay

Princess Cay is a beach on the island of Eleuthera, and this gorgeous little island has miles of pink sand beaches and natural rock formations for you to explore.


This island is a lot more relaxed than most of the others, without live music or loud beach vendors so you can relax and enjoy the sun in relative peace. There are two protected swimming areas on the north and south of the beach, so after a laze in a hammock you can enjoy the vibrant blue Princess Cay waters. Usual water sports are on offer; you can take out aqua bikes or kayaks and explore the shore. For the little ones, there is a supervised play area with slides and sand-castle making.


Top Tip: The island is known for its delicious pineapple and actually has a pineapple festival each year, so make sure you try some!


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