Bahamas vs. Bermuda cruises: Which itinerary will I like more?
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Ah, the bliss of island cruising! Who cares if you choose the Bahamas or Bermuda as your next cruise destination — all islands offer warm weather, gorgeous beaches and outdoor activities year-round. Right?
Wrong. Sure, the Bahamas and Bermuda are both island nations located in the Atlantic Ocean, and you can hit the beach on your cruise to either place. But that’s where the similarities end. Bermuda and the Bahamas each possess a unique island vibe and culture, and itineraries to each destination vary in departure ports and cruise styles.
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Which itinerary is best for you? Compare Bahamas versus Bermuda cruises to make the right choice for your next vacation at sea.
Bahamas vs. Bermuda cruise itineraries
You can sail on a cruise ship to the Bahamas year-round from a number of port cities in the U.S. including Baltimore; New York City (via ports both in Manhattan and in nearby Bayonne, New Jersey); Fort Lauderdale; Miami; Palm Beach, Florida; Port Canaveral, Florida; Galveston, Texas; and New Orleans. That’s because it’s beach season all year long in the Bahamas – except when a passing hurricane brings the rain in summer and fall.
Itineraries can be as short as two nights or as long as a week. Both short and weeklong Bahamas cruises sail exclusively to Bahamian ports, but some seven-night sailings mix it up with ports of call in the Caribbean or Florida.
Bermuda, on the other hand, is not hot year-round, so cruises typically sail from April through November. Some cruise lines offer the occasional winter Bermuda cruise, or tack a visit onto an off-season transatlantic sailing. You’ll still have fun in the shoulder season, but it might not be swimming weather.
The standard Bermuda cruise is a week, though you can find four- and five-night options. Bermuda cruises depart exclusively from Northeastern ports, including Boston, New York and Baltimore. In most cases, the ship will sail to one of the Bermuda ports and dock there for one to three days before heading back home.
The benefit of this style of itinerary is you’re in port overnight and can explore the island nation in-depth, from early morning bike rides to romantic sunset sails. However, cruisers who love getting rocked to sleep by the waves will miss those extra nights of sailing when they’re docked for two evenings straight.
Bahamas vs. Bermuda ports of call
Bermuda is a former British colony, with a more formal vibe than you’ll find in the laid-back Bahamas. Though it’s made up of more than 100 islands, its largest and most populated islands are connected by bridges to form the destination we think of as Bermuda. Cruise ships don’t island-hop here. They pick one of three cruise ports and dock.
Cruise ships that dock in Hamilton are in the heart of the action; the city is the nation’s capital. Visitors can choose from city pursuits like shopping and dining or head to the beaches and golf courses. The Royal Naval Dockyard, referred to as King’s Wharf by some cruise lines, is a historic naval site located at the western tip of Bermuda. St. George’s on Bermuda’s eastern end is a World Heritage Site with narrow, cobblestone streets and oodles of charm. (It was one of the first colonial settlements in the New World.)
Cruises to the Bahamas will visit several Bahamian ports on a weeklong cruise, though a few itineraries feature two days at a cruise line’s private island. These private islands — such as Holland America’s Half Moon Cay, Disney Cruise Line’s Castaway Cay and Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day at CocoCay – are popular with cruisers for their pristine beaches and plentiful activities, all in a safe environment where your cruise card is accepted currency and a lunch buffet is free.
Avid cruisers give the staple Bahamian ports of Nassau and Freeport mixed reviews. The Freeport cruise port is isolated, and the beaches and resorts on surrounding Grand Bahama Island don’t always live up to expectations. Nassau is touristy; the cruise port is located in the heart of a large shopping district. Escape downtown to find yourself a spot on a gorgeous resort beach or hop in a boat for some water sports action.
Bahamas vs. Bermuda beaches and water sports
Neither Bermuda nor the Bahamas will disappoint when it comes to beaches. The Bahamas lure visitors with beach weather year-round, but Bermuda has a more temperate climate. If you cruise there in the shoulder season, the weather might not be warm enough for swimming.
Bermuda is known for its pink-sand beaches, such as Horseshoe Bay Beach, often with scenic rock formations framing the sand and sea. Beaches here are smaller than the far-ranging stretches of sand you find in the Caribbean or U.S. You’ll need transportation from the cruise port to the best beaches, though little Snorkel Park Beach is walking distance from King’s Wharf.
You can snorkel from a Bermuda beach in many places, or rent kayaks, stand-up paddleboards or boogie boards. Book a tour to try snuba, jet skiing or parasailing. Sailing tours by day or for sunset are popular choices.
All of the cruise line private islands in the Bahamas offer idyllic beach days, with gorgeous white-sand beaches, on-site bars and buffets, and a variety of activities, from snorkeling to kayaking and horseback riding. You won’t be bothered by vendors trying to braid your hair or sell you souvenirs, though staff will come through taking drink orders.
Nassau and Freeport are also popular beach destinations, and many people will purchase day passes to resorts for the nicest and safest options. Junkanoo Beach is walking distance from the Nassau cruise port and offers on-site bars, restaurants and water sports rentals, but it’s more of a party beach than a tropical idyll. Head to Atlantis if you want a beachfront waterpark as your playground for the day. Be warned, though: Day passes don’t come cheap.
Freeport’s beaches range in quality when it comes to resort amenities, and beach clubs occasionally over-promise and under-deliver. Bimini has that private-island vibe, with an emphasis on sunbathing, diving, snorkeling and boating.
You’ll find all your favorite water sports in the Bahamas. Snorkel, dive, sail, kayak or take a glass-bottom boat tour on your own or via an excursion. If you’re a wildlife fan, you can swim with dolphins, stingrays, sharks and even pigs.
Bahamas vs. Bermuda shore excursions and activities
The main difference between Bermuda and the Bahamas is that beaches and water sports are the key activities in the Bahamas, while Bermuda’s attractions are more varied.
In Bermuda, cruise visitors can enjoy the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum & Zoo, as well as historic forts and the limestone formations of the Crystal Caves. The island’s capital, Hamilton, is a small city and its Front Street is chock-full of shops and restaurants. Hop on a bike and pedal your way along the Bermuda Railway Trail or to Cooper’s Island Nature Reserve.
Bermuda is also famous for its plentiful golf courses, and enthusiasts can book tee times at courses such as Belmont Hills and Turtle Hill.
Nassau has a few historic sites, such as the Queen’s Staircase and Fort Fincastle, but they are not the main attraction. The Pirates of Nassau Museum is a fun rainy day destination, and the small National Art Gallery set in a historic home is a hidden gem. You’ll find plenty of shopping on Bay Street from the straw market to high-end jewelry stores, but check out the artisans market in Pompey Square for locally made goods.
When pitting Bermuda versus the Bahamas as your potential cruise destination, you need to match each island nation’s beaches, activities and ports of call with your preferred vacation style.
Featured photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean.
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