If you’re looking for a fun but affordable way to celebrate a birthday or anniversary, or just looking to get away for a few days I highly recommend the Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line. My boyfriend and I just returned from celebrating my 35th birthday and we had a great time. Here I’ll share information and pictures from our time on the ship and day in Bimini Bahamas.
Booking the Cruise
Since I’m constantly searching for deals, I came across this cruise package on Groupon.com. The deal on Groupon is featured frequently and is one of the top selling vacation deals saving travelers 40% – 60%. For example, the ocean view cabin for two people two nights is normally $499 (around $220 per person) but when purchased on Groupon the costs is between $269 – $299 for two people. After purchasing the Groupon, I contacted the cruse line to make a reservation. At that time I provided the date I wanted to travel, names and birth dates, my Groupon voucher code, and paid an additional $65.53 per person for taxes and fees. The good news is if for whatever reason you need to cancel your trip you can without forfeiting the entire trip – you lose the taxes and fees paid but can reschedule the trip at any time. At that point we were all set, the next step was finding a cheap flight to the West Palm Beach Port.
For the $269 ocean view option we spent one evening on the ship traveling to the Bahamas, one day on location, and then one night traveling back to the port. The ship arrives in the Bahamas every other day, so if you want to stay in the Bahamas you can starting around $70 per night and catch the next cruise back. Food and non alcholic drinks are included in the price, but if you want to upgrade to the fancier restaurant that is also an option. There’s also a ton of stuff to do on the boat, but the trip is so short its kind of difficult to enjoy everything. There’s comedy shows and other entertainment, a spa, a casino, and kids clubs if you are traveling with your family.
Traveling to the Port
Flights from Atlanta to West Palm Beach are normally pretty cheap (around $100 round trip), but since it was around Thanksgiving prices were sky rocketing pretty fast. We ended up flying to Miami for $130 per person and spent a few hours in Miami before driving one hour to the West Palm Beach port. Since the boat capacity was only around 40%, checking in was easy and we didn’t need to check our bags. Valet is the only parking option available at the port which costed around $30 for the entire 2 days. To save on cost, next time around I would try to travel on the train from the airport to the port.
We boarded the ship around 3pm and by 5:30pm the ship departed.
TIP – While on the ship, as with our cruise lines, you can only use a card provided by the cruise line to make purchases on the ship. This card is either linked to your credit card or loaded with cash at the time of check in. I recommend using cash or a prepaid credit card or gift card. When purchases are made on the ship a hold or a pending transaction will be made on the funds on your credit or debit card to see if funds are available. These pending transactions will eventually be released, but it may take days or even weeks. To avoid this use cash or a gift card.
The ship, cabin, and food was pretty standard to other cruise ships I had been on (carnival). The pictures on the website look exactly how the ship and cabin looked in person. Our cabin was around 180 square feet but didn’t feel too small – there was definitely enough room for 2 people to be comfortable. We were on deck 6 and I didn’t experience any motion sickness or notice any excessive motion while on the ship. The accommodations were good and the crew was very nice and helpful. The only thing I thought was lacking was the pool deck area – the pool was very small. But other than that I thought everything seemed pretty standard.
The best part of the trip was my birthday dinner on the first night. Since it was my bday we spent the extra $30 per person to upgrade to the nicer restaurant named the Admirality Club. The restaurant and service was impeccable and the food was DELICIOUS! The food quality at the Admirality Club definitely surpassed my expectations. The dinner features a 5 course meal which includes an appetizer, soup or salad, the main entree, and dessert. The 5th course is a complimentary dish from the chef. Our favorites were the scallops, the lobster soup, and the lamb chops with mint jelly was AMAZING!
Since it was my birthday the crew sang happy birthday to me and provided cake. If you are celebrating a special event be sure to let them know at the time you make your reservation.
Cruising to the Island
We spent the entire evening and night traveling to Bimini (which was only about 80 miles away from the port). That evening there was plenty of events on the boat. By 7am we were docked and ready to explore the island. The water close to the island appeared to be very shallow so the cruise ship docked pretty far from the island. The ride from the island to the cruise ship in a smaller boat took about 30 minutes.
The Destination - Bimini
Since hurricane Matthew (the first Category 5 Atlantic hurricane since Hurricane Felix in 2007) damaged the usual destination site in Freeport Bahamas, the destination was changed to North Bimini. Bimini is a very small island about 50 miles away from Miami that’s 7 miles long and less than 1 mile wide with a population less than 2,000.
While there we traveled the island on a golf cart which costed $50 for the entire day. There was a long street referred to as the “The Kings Highway” that allowed us to travel pretty much the entire island. The beach areas were beautiful and there were a ton of small restaurants serving seafood and lots of conch salad (there were piles of conch shells every where).
I later found out from one of the locals that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr traveled to Bimini frequently and wrote several speeches there including his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in 1964 and the last speech before his death in 1968.
On the island there was definitely evidence of poor living on one end and then just a few miles away I was shocked to see new construction of million dollar homes being built near the Hilton resort (which is gorgeous and has a new casino). These homes were gigantic with gorgeous pool areas. Here’s a picture of one we saw.
The only thing that was disappointing about the island was the water excursions. Since the water was so shallow around the island, there wasn’t a lot of room to enjoy jet skiing or any of the water activities that were very expensive. We ended up passing on the water excursions and just explored the island.
To conclude, I think this cruise package is an excellent deal especially for 2 people. The cruise line travels back and forth so frequently this vacation operates like a well oiled machine. I would have loved to see the larger island of Freeport, but Bimini was also nice to visit. Plus, you can’t go wrong traveling to the Bahamas – the scenery is just gorgeous! Even though it was a short getaway, it was the perfect amount of time to celebrate my birthday and get back in time for Thanksgiving dinner.