I know you’ve seen it. Perhaps it was when you were laying on the couch at home, aimlessly scrolling Groupon for yet another personalized dog sweater and VOILA! There it was: $199 cruise to The Bahamas! You’re sick of the boyfriend, tied of the smelly kids, debating on quitting your job and becoming a full time escort; YOU NEED A BREAK! So you lift your finger to click the “Buy” button.
Before you do, I invite you to check out the deal a little closer with me.
UPDATE: Since this article has been written, this cruise line has added another ship to their fleet – “Grand Classica.” It is supposed to be an upgrade from the original ship “Grand Celebration.” Same pricing applies to both.
Who: The cruise line goes by “Bahama Paradise Cruise Line.” The ship(s) that this cruise line uses originally come from “Carnival” cruise lines as a holiday class cruise ship. It carries about 1,500 passengers, which include the staff.
Where: This ship disembarks and embarks to the port of West Palm Beach, Florida.
How long: 2 days! Perfect for a nice, quick getaway out of the country. No passport needed unless you are staying overnight on Grand Bahama Island.
How much?: The Groupon is $199 (sometimes $250). Once booked, you must call the cruise line to pay the taxes/port charges, which are $66 per person.
Bahamas Paradise Cruise prep
As I mentioned, Groupon normally has this deal for $199 plus taxes/port fees. However, this cruise is also offered from different timeshare/travel companies or you can go directly to the company website (for a little more than the Groupon pricing) and purchase your trip there. Be mindful that any last minute changes, passenger or dates, will incur a fee. Since this cruises leaves and goes back to the States, only a birth certificate and photo ID are needed to cruise, unless you plan on staying overnight in the Bahamas (yes, there is an overnight option). Despite that: HUGE TIP – Take your passport. It eliminates A LOT of unnecessary waiting!
Its your choice to fly directly into West Palm Beach (PBI) or into Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and drive about 40 minutes to the cruise port. I was meeting/traveling with a group of friends (one of whom lived in the area), so I flew into FLL. Flying into FLL is normally a cheaper option that West Palm Beach due to the fact that it’s a much bigger, busier & popular airport.
Day 1 / Departure
When you arrive at port, you will of course see a very large ship, but following the stream of the crowd will direct you to where you should be boarding.
HUGE TIP: If you drive, they will make you valet your car. There is no parking lot in the area where you are able to park your own vehicle.
The check-in/embarking process is standard. Once you have made it past security, you have the actual area of checking in where you have the option, by paper and pen, to add various options to your trip, which may include excursions, drink packages, etc. After making it past the almost obligatory boat boarding photo, you are finally on the ship. It is a smaller, older ship and navigating from one end to another is not difficult to do. In total, you can make it from one end of the ship to the other in about 5 minutes.
In total there are:
- 9 passenger decks
- 1 Salon
- 1 Spa
- 2 Pools
- 3 hot tubs
- 1 kids club
- 1 casino area
- 1 nightclub
- 1 theater
- 1 mini lounge/performance area
- 2 restaurants
- 1 buffet area
Drinks and food are being prepared and served as soon as you board, of course, so a stop at the buffet or burger bar is almost expected. After the mandatory safety briefing, you are free to roam for the night at the ship makes its way to Freeport, Grand Bahama. Go by the casino and try your luck or swing by the theater for a performance that includes dancers, magic tricks, acrobatics, comedy and is FREE! Other options include activities at the front pool area and band performances. This time is the best to go to the customer service area to sign up and pay for any excursions that you would like to do on the island. The earlier you book your excursions, the better. You are in Freeport from 8am – 4pm and all of the activities will range in between those times, however, many of them will overlap, so be wise in picking what you really want to do on the island, if choosing from the offered cruise excursions. My travel partner and I chose to do parasailing and snorkeling, which were offered at the same location and were at times that were one behind the other (see pic that shows activities and pricing). Jumping into one of the pools or hot tubs is also the perfect way to kick off this trip or head straight to the bar.
Recommendation: There are drink packages. Drinks average $9-12 a piece. If you will be doing some real drinking, grab a bottle instead, where the pricing ranges from $99-$180 or get the drink coupon package: 10 drinks for $69.99 (pics of both below).
HUGE TIP: Multiple guests that have taken this trip have said that one of the hot tubs are always down, as well as one of the pools and the kids swimming area has more often than not, been down.
This is also a good time to choose your dinner restaurants from the two offerings. One of the restaurants, Stellar Prime, is included in the price of the cruise, with extra being charged if you order premium food. The other restaurant, Club Rosa, has a $29 cover charge per person, plus an 18% service charge and a dress code is also mandated.
HUGE TIP: Both are good but average.
If you have chosen any excursions for your day in the Bahamas, HEAD OUT TO ENJOY YOUR ACTIVITIES! Even if you didn’t pay for any activities, you can choose to lounge around on the ship or take a shuttle to the Freeport marketplace and indulge in Bahamain food and drinks. Snorkeling and Parasailing were both amazing activities and gave me the chance to see beautiful views of the island and ocean life in the emerald waters. At the Freeport Marketplace “PLEASEEEEE, PLEASE, PLEASE PLEASE” *in my James Brown voice* go to “Daddy Browns” and get some fresh Conch! Ask about him anywhere in the market place and you will be directed right to him. His little hut has even made it on to Yelp! There will ALWAYS be a wait at his humble, little booth, but the fried conch fritters and lobster are worth every minute. The fresh conch salad is also a favorite of visitors and locals. Be sure to also look for the coconut drink stand where coconuts are cut with a machete, when you order and the amount of rum that is poured into the drink has to be equivalent to about three shots.
As the day on the island comes to a close, those who have purchased the additional option of staying on the island will remain there. If not, it is time to head back to the ship, which can be done quite easily by catching one of the shuttle departure points from your excursion or checking out the available departure spots. Once you are back on the ships, you are free to do whatever you heart desires. On this night you can attend the adult comedy show that runs $12 a person, hop in a hot tub (hopefully its working), swing by the buffet or peruse the gift shops. Disembarking starts at 8 am.
To wrap it all up
You get what you are paying for. There have been countless reviews listed where some are complaining about the quality of the cruise. The cruise line is not one of the more upscale that have entire shopping malls and amusement parks in its middle; it is not the Royal Caribbean or Norwegian. Despite that, it is still a good value for what it offers, which is a quick trip to one of the beautiful islands of the Bahamas. Prepare accordingly with realistic expectations and your trip will be the quick refresher that you have been looking for.