A stone's throw from South Florida, the Bahamas are an easily accessible respite from the real world -- with cruise ships generally sailing to the islands' two major ports (Nassau and Freeport) and a cruise line-operated private island. But just because the itineraries are similar, it doesn't mean the ships are, too. Each has its own personality and variety of amenities, catering to everyone from active couples and solo travelers to families and others who want to steer clear of a "booze cruise" experience.
Even better, due to the limited number of ports, Bahamas cruises can be shorter -- often two to five nights -- and therefore more affordable. In need of a quick tropical getaway, but not sure where to start? We compare the six best cruise ships in the Bahamas to help you determine your perfect fit.
Roomy cabins, a variety of complimentary dining venues and bars, and a water park make Carnival Liberty one of the best values when it comes to Bahamas cruises. With so much to do (and eat and drink) onboard, you might even find it hard to get off the ship in port. Need some time to detox from it all? Carnival Liberty's Serenity Deck -- one of the only cruise ship adults-only sun decks that doesn't come with an extra fee -- allows you to soak up the islands' cerulean sea views from a hammock, clamshell lounger or hot tub.
Sailing from: Orlando (Port Canaveral)
Alchemy Bar serves up unique handcrafted cocktails
Short production shows help free up your night for other activities
Top-deck mini-golf course and picnic tables ensure family fun
Travelers on a budget
Couples who love to bar hop
The company behind the "Most Magical Place on Earth" also offers an equally wondrous experience on a short cruise to the Bahamas. On Disney Dream, passengers can enjoy meet-and-greets with their favorite Disney characters, production shows -- including "Beauty and the Beast" -- using elaborate costumes and props, and dinner at fun, themed restaurants. Cap off the night with a fireworks show and top-deck dance party, in the middle of the ocean.
Sailing from: Orlando (Port Canaveral)
Animator's Palate transforms into a virtual aquarium, where characters come to life
Adults-only pool provides parental escape when little ones are at the kids' club
Cabins boast ample storage and family-friendly split bathrooms
Families whose kids want to feel like superheroes
Couples who love Disney
Big-ship lovers with a large budget
With nightly departures from the Port of Palm Beach, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line's Grand Classica and Grand Celebration in tandem offer two-night cruises with one day in Grand Bahama Island (Freeport) -- making them arguably the most affordable option. Grand Classica itself is pretty simple, lacking the industry's latest bells and whistles, but it packs a punch with value-added features such as free fitness and yoga classes offered by certified instructors and a complimentary buffet-style barbecue on the top deck, for lunch.
Sailing from: Palm Beach
Fun daytime activities range from beanbag toss games to martini tastings
No single supplement (extra fee) is charged to solo travelers
Adults-only pool offers tranquil retreat at the back of the ship
Couples on a budget
Friend groups short on time
Although its Bahamas cruises aren't short, Grandeur of the Seas still offers a solid bargain on its seven- to nine-night itineraries, which tend to incorporate other stops along the U.S. East Coast. With the extra sea days between Baltimore and the Bahamas, cruisers have more time to enjoy the ship's array of dining and entertainment, such as salsa dancing, a piano sing-along, theme parties and a top-deck soiree under the stars.
Sailing from: Baltimore
Fun daytime activities include sushi- and cupcake-making classes
Theme nights run the gamut from masquerade to toga
Rock climbing wall overlooks the back of the ship
Families who want to stay busy during the day
Travelers with more time for vacation
Perhaps no ship embodies the mantra "it's 5 o'clock somewhere" more than Norwegian Sky, where passengers kick back with a continuous flow of frozen, fruity cocktails thanks to the line's all-inclusive beverage policy. Even 18- to 20-year-olds can enjoy a glass of wine or beer, legally, with a parent's consent. But there's more to the ship than its open bar. Passengers have a choice of several free and for-fee specialty restaurants, such as the French-inspired Le Bistro, perfect for date nights, as well as a fun mix of nighttime entertainment.
Sailing from: Miami
Cocktails, wines by the glass, beer and spirits up to a $15 value are complimentary
Five hot tubs include a separate one just for kids
Recreational activities range from a volleyball to golf-driving
Adults who want a more party-like atmosphere
Families with young adult children
Not a fan of the whole "rock climbing walls and water parks" scene? Consider a Bahamas cruise on Celebrity Infinity, which takes a more relaxed approach to island time with its peaceful sun decks, chic atmosphere and emphasis on fine dining. The cruise line boasts some of the best restaurants at sea, while innovative entertainment keeps the party going till late. The popular Martini Bar is a show all in itself; order a martini flight, and you'll see what we mean.
Sailing from: Miami and Fort Lauderdale
Couples who don't want a "booze cruise" experience
Traveler with mobility issues, thanks to comfortable accessible cabins