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Best Month to Cruise to the Bahamas
Less than 200 miles off the coast of Miami is Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas. Ubiquitous with cruising, the Bahamas offers up its tropical ports and private islands on short cruises or part of longer Caribbean itineraries, nearly year-round. Deciding the best month to go to the Bahamas by cruise ship can be tough, due to its long cruise season. Vacationers might wonder: Will it be too crowded in the summer or rainy in the winter? When is the cheapest time to sail to the Bahamas? We took a look at the calendar year to determine when you can find the best weather conditions, hurricane season storms and a not-to-miss festival -- all to help you decide the best month to cruise to the Bahamas. But first, here's our pick:
Princess Cays vs. Half Moon Cay
Passengers who are lucky enough to cruise the Bahamas on Princess, Holland America or Carnival ships will probably see a stop at Princess Cays or Half Moon Cay show up on their itinerary. These destinations, unlike others that are filled with intense sightseeing excursions, are favorites of beach-loving passengers for their singular focus on rest and relaxation. Sure, you can book a few excursions on these islands, but you're on island time -- so doing absolutely nothing is perfectly OK, too. Let's explore the amenities on Princess Cays and Half Moon Cay to help you pick your next cruise itinerary.
Nassau Highlights Tour in the Bahamas: Shore Excursion Review
Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, is popular with cruise lines, offering a bit of island sun and bargain shopping close to Florida. But even popular ports bring in first-time visitors, who need to figure out what are the must-see attractions and how to go about getting to them without sweating through their new logo tees. For many, a highlights tour is a good bet. In an effort to gain an overview of what the port has to offer, we booked "Nassau Shore Excursion: Island Highlights Sightseeing Tour" through Viator, an affiliate of Cruise Critic and also owned by TripAdvisor. We wanted to see how the excursion stacked up in terms of time, cost and experience. Read our findings beow.
Great Stirrup Cay vs. CocoCay
Private islands are some of the most luxurious ports of call, but they aren't just reserved for the rich and famous. Most mainstream cruise lines offer access to private islands for the everyday cruise passenger, too. We'll take a look at two private islands who underwent big changes to provide cruise passengers with new amenities and upgraded spaces to stretch out and enjoy: Norwegian Cruise Line's Great Stirrup Cay and Royal Caribbean's Perfect Day at CocoCay. These two ports provide the perfect reason to ditch every item on your to-do list and get in that R&R time you've been craving, focusing on fun and togetherness.
CocoCay vs. Half Moon Cay
Cruise passengers who roll up to Half Moon Cay are greeted with the sign "I Wish I Could Stay Here Forever," while over at another Bahamian private island, CocoCay, it's seemingly always a "Perfect Day." Both islands are run by cruise lines: Half Moon Cay is used exclusively by Holland America and Carnival passengers, while CocoCay caters to Royal Caribbean cruisers. Regardless of which island you're on, after a day swaying on a hammock overlooking the turquoise ocean, that #privateislandlife seems more like a life goal than a clever hashtag. Let's explore the amenities offered on each island to help you determine which port of call is best for your next cruise adventure.
7 Places to Cruise Without a Passport
You've decided you want a vacation, but there's a problem -- you don't have a passport. Maybe you've never had the time, money or desire to travel abroad previously, or perhaps your old passport has expired. Whatever the reason, you still have choices. One option is to take a closed-loop cruise -- a round-trip sailing that leaves from and returns to the same U.S. port. For that, you need only a birth certificate and a driver's license (or other acceptable, government-issued photo ID). You can't cruise just anywhere on a closed-loop sailing, but the choices are more interesting than you might expect. Below, we've compiled a list of seven places to visit without a passport, from scenic Alaska to the beachy Caribbean.
11 Best Cruise Destinations for Active Cruise Travelers
You can get a workout on pretty much any cruise, but to maximize your adrenaline-pumping options, it's best to find the right combination of cruise ship and destination. Active cruise travelers will usually turn up at least a handful of shore experiences to whet their appetites for adventure, but if you're cruising with a sedentary lot, that city bike tour or rainforest hike might get canceled due to lack of interest. Likewise, certain ports simply don't lend themselves to athletic adventures, while others have so many active choices, it's hard to make up your mind. Below, we have listed our picks for the 11 best adventure cruise destinations for those who are active travelers, as well as our suggestions for the cruise lines that make the best matches. Just don't forget to pack your running shoes and snorkel gear.
Best Private Island Shore Excursions
What's so nice about cruise line private islands? For many, it's the beach bumming, swimming, eating (the food is brought from the ship) and perhaps having a massage from an open-air cabana. However, cruise lines have ramped up activities ashore with a solid variety of private island shore excursions and attractions -- from simple snorkeling and guided nature tours to superlatives like speeding down the tallest water slide in North America and swinging along the longest zipline above water. Even kids will bask in their glory with small water parks, pirate playgrounds and other mini-attractions. Still not sure what makes a private island different? The concept, which basically takes the onboard experience and brings it onto a small Bahamian island (in most cases) owned by the cruise line, is like being onboard -- and onshore -- at the same time. Some of the private islands' "shore excursions" are actually just equipment rentals, such as snorkel gear and boats, eliminating the hassle of arranging a tour group and rushing to complete it in a one- to two-hour time frame. While some private island excursions do offer guided tours (like kayaking), others package for-fee experiences like kayak rentals without a guide. Read on for the top things you can do during your visit to one of these cruise line private islands. (If you have questions about the shore excursions listed -- or additional offerings -- be sure to ask away on the Cruise Critics Message Boards' Private Islands Forum.