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Caribbean vs. Bahamas cruises: Which should I take?


Stuck between a cruise to The Bahamas and one that sails further south to the Caribbean?

While cruises sail all over the world, from Alaska to Northern Europe, Asia, the Mediterranean, and even the South Pacific, if you are looking for a tropical getaway, you are probably debating between The Bahamas and Caribbean. 

It can be hard to decide, especially since both promise white-sand beaches and fun shore excursions. Plus, you will find cruises to both year-round. 

Here is a guide to help you decide whether you should take a Caribbean or Bahamas cruise; however, you should know that whether you should take a cruise to The Bahamas or Caribbean will vary based upon your personal preferences

Reasons to take a cruise to The Bahamas

Atlantis Paradise Island

The Bahamas are an archipelago comprised of over 700 islands. Most sailings, however, visit the same few. 

You are likely to see Nassau, the capital of The Bahamas, as a port. Depending on which cruise line you are sailing with, you might also visit one of their private islands, such as Half Moon Cay, Princess Cays, Perfect Day at CocoCay, Great Stirrup Cay, or Castaway Cay. Other possible ports include Freeport and Bimini

One of the main reasons people choose to cruise to The Bahamas is because of the picturesque beaches. No matter what ports are on your itinerary, you'll be able to relax on white-sand beaches while admiring the turquoise waters. 

norwegian epic

You can choose to purchase a day pass to a nearby resort to enjoy their amenities, book a snorkeling excursion, or simply lounge on a beach chair. While you are there, make sure that you try some of the local cuisine. Popular items include conch fritters and rum cake!

If you don't have much PTO left, do not worry! Since The Bahamas are located off the coast of Florida, you will find plenty of 3- and 4-night itineraries. It is easier than you think to escape for a quick getaway! 

There are some that are longer, too. These tend to depart further north from ports like Baltimore and New York, though, and will sometimes visit Port Canaveral (Orlando), Florida. Because there's such a variety of lengths, you are sure to find a Bahamas cruise to fit any budget. 

Read more: Best Month to Cruise to the Bahamas

Reasons to take a cruise to the Caribbean

Maho Beach

The Caribbean has a wider variety of ports to visit and is divided into three different sections: Eastern, Western, and Southern. Sometimes, you may stop in The Bahamas on a Caribbean itinerary for a day. 

The Eastern Caribbean includes ports like San Juan, Puerto Rico; Amber Cove and La Romana, Dominican Republic; Grand Turks, Turks and Caicos; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Tortola, British Virgin Islands; and Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. 

If you choose a cruise to the Western Caribbean you might visit Falmouth or Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Grand Cayman; Cozumel or Costa Maya, Mexico; Roatán or Mahogany Bay, Honduras; or Belize City, Belize. 

San Gervasio

Finally, the Southern Caribbean is furthest from the United States. In fact, some ports are insanely close to South America! Popular destinations here include the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao), as well as St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands; St. John's, Antigua; 
St. Vincent and the Grenadines; Castries, St. Lucia; and Bridgetown, Barbados. 

The majority of Caribbean cruises tend to be around a week since the islands are located further than The Bahamas. You can, however, find some that are both longer and shorter! If they're shorter than a week, they usually only visit one or two ports of call, whereas those that are around a week visit anywhere from three to four. 

There's also more variety of shore excursions, too. Do you want to zip line through the forests of Jamaica? What about visit ancient Mayan ruins or swim with sting rays in Grand Cayman? In St. Maarten, you can watch planes land at Maho Beach or take a Jeep/ATV tour of the island. 


Read more: The 5 Best and Worst Things About a Caribbean Cruise

For those who want to sail on the newest ships, they can oftentimes be found cruising to the Caribbean. This includes Carnival's Excel Class ships, as well as Royal Caribbean's Wonder and Icon of the Seas

If you are cruising on a budget, sailings to the Caribbean tend to be more expensive since they're usually longer than those to The Bahamas. Plus, if you want any cruise add-ons, like a drink or Wi-Fi package, you will be paying for more days. This can add up quickly! 

As someone who cruises frequently, I prefer Caribbean cruises, as I feel like there's more for me to see and do! This year alone I have taken three short 3- and 4-night cruises to The Bahamas and feel like I have exhausted what there is to do there without spending $200+ on a day pass to Atlantis.

Read more: Best Caribbean shore excursions

What are the different departure ports for cruises to The Bahamas and Caribbean?

Aerial view of PortMiami

You'll find numerous sailings to both The Bahamas and Caribbean from Florida, with the majority sailing from Port Canaveral (Orlando), Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale), and Miami. 

If you're looking to take a short cruise to The Bahamas, you'll likely have to sail from South Florida, as transit time from Tampa or Baltimore would extend the length of your vacation. 

Those looking to take a longer cruise to The Bahamas will have to look at embarkation ports that are located outside of Florida, such as New York, Baltimore, Charleston, and Norfolk.

NCL Escape in New York

 You can occasionally find 5- to 7-night cruises to the Bahamas from Jacksonville and Tampa, Florida, too; however, these sailings tend to be on older ships, as these ports are smaller and unable to accommodate today's mega-ships.

The majority of 7-night Caribbean cruises also depart from South Florida; however, Galveston, Texas is becoming a popular port for Western Caribbean sailings. In fact, many cruise lines, such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian, are sending some of their largest and newer ships here! You'll also find some sailing from New Orleans, as well as Mobile, Alabama. 

If you're looking for a port-intensive Southern Caribbean cruise, consider sailing from San Juan. Since Puerto Rico is located further south, you are able to visit more destinations, as less transit time is required to and from the embarkation port. 


With so many different embarkation ports to choose from, you should consider cruising from one that is within driving distance of your home. Not only will you save money on pre- and post-cruise transportation, but it will be much more convenient than dealing with crowded airports. 

Read more: The costly cruising mistake newbies make planning their first cruise

Short on time? Cruise to The Bahamas

Ocean Cay

If you are short on time or have a smaller budget, you should select a cruise to The Bahamas. Not only is the base fare of the sailing going to be lower, but you'll spend less on daily add-ons, like drink and Wi-Fi packages. 

This could end up saving you hundreds of dollars, as many drink packages cost a minimum of $55 per day before gratuities are added! 

The Bahamas are also ideal for those who prefer to lounge on the beach, as the Caribbean has more activity excursion options. If you're able to choose an itinerary to a private island, you should consider it a free beach day, as you will not have to spend extra money on food, transportation, or lounge chairs and umbrellas. 

Want a greater variety of shore excursions? Cruise to the Caribbean

zipline 2

While the Caribbean is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, you do not have to make each day ashore a beach day. Perhaps one day you want to lounge on Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman and climb Dunns River Falls in Jamaica the next. 

The Bahamas primarily offers beach and water-related activities, like snorkeling and jet skiing. You will find some cultural tours in Nassau, too; however, you won't find as much variety as you would in the Caribbean. Plus, since the Caribbean is made up of different countries, you will have the option to experience different local cultures. 

Stock image of tacos

A longer cruise also means that you will have more time to explore the ship. If you are taking a 3-night cruise to The Bahamas, chances are that you will not have a full day onboard. Oftentimes, this means a Bahamas cruise can feel more fast-paced, as there's less time to relax. 

When you get back onboard after a day in Nassau or Castaway Cay, you will want to change for dinner and attend the ship's evening entertainment, whether that's a production show in the theater, poolside movie, interactive game show, or live music in one of the lounges.  

Cruising during the winter months? Your best bet for warm weather is the Caribbean


Don't get me wrong, the Bahamas are ideal year-round; however, they are subject to the occasional cold front during the winter. This makes sense when you think about how Nassau is only about 180 miles from Miami. 

In January, the average high is around 79 degrees, while the average low drops to 64. In fact, I visited CocoCay in January 2023 and found it was too cold to swim! 

Dock Costa Maya

If you want the best weather in The Bahamas, you should aim to cruise in November, late April, or early May. Not only do all of these months fall outside of the Atlantic hurricane season, but you are also less likely to encounter a cold front. 

Since the Caribbean is further south, it stays warm all year. During the months of December, January, and February, however, they'll be less hot and humid than during the summer, when islands can see daily highs exceeding 90 degrees. 

Read more: What is the best month to cruise to the Caribbean?

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