Does anything beat a Bahamas cruise? Wide turquoise seas are the only thing in sight, the island vibe takes over, and all your cares melt away. I recently had the opportunity to experience a weekend away on the new ship by Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, the Grand Classica.
I’ve had so many people ask me about this cruise. It’s a small, inexpensive ship that departs the Port of Palm Beach for two-night trips to Grand Bahama and back.
BPCL has had another, smaller ship—the Grand Celebration—running the same leg for a couple years now, and after spotting the incredible Groupon deal that runs on occasion, people wonder whether the cruise is worth it; essentially, for a couple hundred bucks or less, you head to Grand Bahama Island for a day, and almost everything is included in the low price of your trip (accommodations, food, and fun on the ship).
I’d never been able to give a definitive answer before because I hadn’t yet experienced the ship for myself, but this weekend, I set sail on the inaugural voyage of the Grand Classica from West Palm Beach to Grand Bahama Island, and now I’m back with the full scoop. I love a good jaunt to the Caribbean, and it was a dreamy weekend of sun, relaxation, and maybe a rum buzz or two.
Wondering what to expect on this cheap Bahamas cruise? Read on.
An Inexpensive Bahamas Cruise
The first thing you should know: it’s important to go into this cruise with realistic expectations.
It’s not a high-end cruise and Freeport is not the most exciting destination in the Bahamas. You’re paying a minimal price and heading to the Caribbean for a quick getaway; you won’t be basking in the lap of luxury aboard an ultra-modern ship with all the latest in cruising technology, and there will probably be some hiccups during your stay.
Approach the trip with an open mindset, though, and you can have the time of your life.
On board the ship, there’s a few different floors of fun stuff to entertain you and optional activities planned nearly every hour throughout the cruise. There’s a casino, lounge, theater, spa, several restaurants, shops, two pool decks (though the pools are very small), plenty of lounge chairs, and of course plenty of bars! I also loved the crow’s nest bar; it’s at the very tip-top of the ship and offers great 360* views.
There’s also a hype crew you’ll see around the ship keeping things lively. They host contests and start dance parties on the pool deck, and they certainly keep things interesting.
Day 1: Board and Enjoy the Ship
On the first official day of the cruise, you’ll be able to board from mid-morning until about 3 PM.
Settle into your cabin and let the fun begin! My advice would be to change into your bathing suit right away and let the unwinding commence. Don’t miss a chance to wave goodbye to the Port of Palm Beach as the ship departs in the early evening. Then, enjoy dinner and maybe a show on the ship as it makes the overnight voyage to Grand Bahama Island.
In the next sections, I’ll review some of the details you can expect on board.
This is where I was most impressed with the ship. If you’ve been on a cruise before, you know that cruise ship cabins are not known for being roomy or comfortable. In fact, on most ships, the rooms are rather cramped and unpleasant.
But the Grand Classica was built in a time that prioritized passenger comfort over cramming as many bodies as possible onto the ship, and so the cabins are plenty big for two people to move around comfortably.
Interior appointments were recently renovated, too, so I found our cabin to be clean and cozy, not worn down and scummy like some ships can be. We had closet space, a king bed, a compact bathroom, and even a small desk area. I spent a good deal of time in the comfort of our cabin, reading and enjoying the view from our port hole.
(Definitely pay the small upgrade fee for an ocean view room. It’s worth it!)
The food was the only real letdown for me aboard the Grand Classica Bahamas cruise.
It wasn’t terrible by any means, but I’m not a buffet person, and the buffet is one of the only restaurants on the ship included in the price of your ticket (at the other restaurants, you have to pay extra). There were limited options at the buffet (maybe because it was the ship’s first voyage) and the food that was available was really…subpar.
The Yellow Elder restaurant is also included, and it’s a nicer option than the buffet, but I wasn’t blown away by the food there either.
As far as upgraded food options go, I will say: we dined at Rock Grill on the second night, and that was super fun and the food seemed to be much better quality. You get to choose a meat (steak, lobster, salmon, or chicken) and then cook it on 800* lava rocks brought to your table. It’s a fun experience, and this meal was delicious! Probably worth the extra cost, especially if you’re wanting to do one nice dinner during your trip.
Drink package: You can purchase coupons for 10 drinks for $70 (or $30 for non-alcoholic drinks), which is a pretty good deal, and I believe you can split the package between two people (you get a booklet of tickets to use, so I don’t see why not).
Sailed away for the weekend 🌞🇧🇸 Wow, it’s amazing what a little Bahamian sun will do for your soul. Cruises are so great… a gigantic boat in the middle of the ocean feeds you unlimited treats (and piñas) then gently rocks you to sleep with the waves and then when you wake up you’re in a whole new country. It’s like magic. ✨ Had such a fun time on the inaugural voyage of the #GrandClassica this weekend! What an exciting addition for @bahamas_paradisecl and for South Florida! 🛳👏🏼🌴 — #bahamasparadise #thepalmbeaches #soflo #freeport
There’s a lot to do onboard the Grand Classica. There are nightly shows and performances, games, a game show, a neon glow party, live music, hourly activities, and more.
There’s a kid zone where you can drop off the little ones to have their own fun, and there’s also a spa and fitness center in case you want to treat yourself!
Of course, you may want to do nothing more than plop yourself by the pool and only get up for a refill on your Bahama Mama. That’s fine too.
There’s an adults-only pool deck with hot tubs on a higher floor of the ship, but there’s less going on there than on the main pool deck.
Another draw for many is the onboard casino. They have traditional slot machines and card tables available, so go ahead and try your hand with Lady Luck.
Day 2: Freeport, Grand Bahama Island
You only have one day (a matter of hours, really) to explore Grand Bahama Island. You can get off the ship around 8 AM and then you have until around 4 PM to be back on.
The disembarkation process in Freeport is pretty simple; because you’re not staying overnight on the island, you don’t even need a passport. You just scan your room key on the way out. (Expect to go through security on your way back onto the ship at the end of the day, though.)
What should you do with your 8-ish hours in Freeport? I had a chance to visit the perfume factory (Fragrance of The Bahamas), Garden of the Groves, Port Lucaya Marketplace, and the Lighthouse Pointe Grand Lucayan Resort.
These spots were nice, but I’m not sure they beat lounging on a beach with a frozen drink in hand, and that’s probably what we would have done if we hadn’t participated in this tour. (There are beautiful beachfront pools at the Grand Lucayan, though, if that’s what floats your boat.)
Here’s a little PSA for you folks in case you need this reminder as much as I do today (posting this at midnight because that’s just the kind of #Monday I’ve had): there’s a little jungle oasis on Grand Bahama Island and the #GrandClassica can sail you there in a matter of hours 👌🏼😉🌺 #sendmebacknowplease #wantarefundonmymonday
Unless one of the ship’s paid excursions—like a dolphin encounter or a blue hole snorkel trip—sticks out to you (I found them to be a bit on the pricey side), my honest recommendation would be to bargain with a taxi driver at the port and have them deliver you straight to a beautiful, non-touristy beach on the island, ideally with an authentic Caribbean restaurant nearby. It’ll be inexpensive and relaxing, and isn’t that the reason you’re on a Bahamas cruise in the first place?
FYI: If, like me, your main goal for the entire trip is to get your fix of cracked conch—made fresh and with a sheller cleaning them out behind the shack—there’s a fun little (expensive) conch stand on the docks at Port Lucaya Marketplace.
The Marketplace is also a good spot for shopping if you can’t bear to go home without a straw hat or some other Bahamian souvenir.
Day 3: Disembark
I wouldn’t necessarily count this as a “day” of the cruise since it really just consists of disembarking. You receive an assigned disembarkation time between 8:30 and 10:30 AM, then wait in line to get off the ship.
If you hold a US or Canadian passport and have all of your luggage with you ready to go, you can get off the ship between 7:30 and 8:30 AM. I’d highly recommend doing this; any later and the line at US Customs backs up something crazy. I know it’s early, but personally, I’d rather get up and get right off the ship than stand in line at Customs for a couple hours.
We left our cabin around 7:30 AM and there was already a short line to get off the ship, but we made it from our cabin to the valet stand outside the port in about 30 minutes.
Once you make it off, go have breakfast somewhere in West Palm Beach. I recommend Johan’s Jöe for Swedish pastries and coffee, Grato for an elegant brunch with bottomless frosé (!), or Howley’s for a funky diner feel.
See for yourself why life in West Palm Beach beats Miami real estate prices!
Final Verdict on the Grand Classica
If you’re hoping for a luxurious escape to an exotic tropical locale, this may not be the cruise for you. I don’t want any of my readers going in with unrealistic expectations. It’s a budget cruise through and through, and Freeport is mainly an industrial island.
However, if you’d like to shell out a minimal amount of money and get away for the weekend on a party-positive Bahamas cruise, then the Grand Classica is ideal. You can completely leave life behind for a little while, and don’t we all need a few days of that every now and then?
Shut your phone off (you probably won’t have service anyway), find a lounge chair on the pool deck with a sprawling view of the Caribbean Sea, and unwind with not a worry in the world as the Grand Classica transports you to a Bahamian paradise and back.
P.S. Out of town visitor? I highly recommend downloading Skyscanner to find the cheapest flights into South Florida.
Any questions? Happy to answer them and chat further about this budget Bahamas cruise in the comments!
5 thoughts on “West Palm Beach to Grand Bahama Island Aboard the Grand Classica: Bahamas Cruise Review”
Hi Skye, I had a few questions regarding the cruise, can you help?
1. Can you bring a bottle of champagne in your luggage ?
2. Does the tour take up your whole time there?
3. Any suggestions on what’s are must dos and what we shouldn’t waste our time on?
We’re going for my 24th birthday on the 29th.
Hey Genesis! Happy to help!
1. No, I don’t believe you can, though I don’t remember them ever checking my luggage. We went through security at one point and maybe that’s when they would have checked that (for liquid). I think bringing outside alcohol on the cruise is against the rules since then you wouldn’t be drinking/buying what they have aboard.
2. There are different tour options, and not all of them are supposed to take up the whole day. You’ll get a list of excursion options when you’re on the boat and it will show the time frame for each of them. However, your time in Freeport is super limited, so chances are most tours will take up the majority of the day.
3. Do you mean on the boat or in Freeport? 🙂 On the boat, you should have ample time to experience everything that interests you. In Freeport, I’d skip things like the perfume factory and Port Lucaya Marketplace. They’re pretty geared toward tourists and, in my opinion, didn’t provide a unique or authentic experience of the islands.
Thanks for the insightful piece on Bahamas cruise. Can we get on the cruise with some snacks? Do you if non-US citizens are allowed to get off in Bahamas and get back into the cruise within the specified time? Is there any value in taking and interior room seeing that most ocean view rooms are usually sold out.
Hi Cabdy! Yes, I believe you can bring snacks on board. I’m not sure about the legalities of non-US citizens disembarking. And the value of booking an interior room is that it’s cheaper. But I’d definitely recommend an ocean view room if there’s one available.