As we start to head into the bleakest months of the year, our natural instinct is to look to places where the sun shines more constantly, and where you don’t need three layers of clothing to stave off the cold. The good news is that you really don’t need to look too far outside of the United States to get a one-of-a-kind tropical experience that will warm you up and feed any traveler’s wanderlust.
The Bahamas are an ideal destination for those looking to add a little sun and fun to their lives, offering great snorkeling and outdoor activities as well as interesting history and a unique cultural flavor. The islands have something for everyone. History buffs can find out what life on the islands was like when the famous pirate Blackbeard was a local resident. Foodies can check off a must-taste by finding a restaurant that serves conch. Adventure junkies can go for a gallop down the beaches on horseback.
For travelers from the U.S. who want a low-stress vacation, the Bahamas have the added appeal of currency (the Bahamian dollar, or BS$) that is linked with the U.S. dollar, meaning you don’t have to change money or do mathematical mental acrobatics every time you want to make a purchase. While Americans do need a passport, there’s no visa required, shaving an extra step off of pre-departure preparations.
The islands aren’t exactly a best-kept secret, but there are some ways to avoid getting stuck in a crowd during the most popular travel times of the year. Hotels can fill up fast during high season (from about December to April), and rates tend to go up during that time, too. A Bahamas cruise is a convenient way to avoid getting shut out of the competition for rooms, and can provide a lot of value for your money.
Since the Bahamas are a popular cruise destination, travelers enjoy the luxury of a lot of options, but it’s always important to do thorough research before you buy – or before you talk to your travel agent. Know what you want out of your trip (and what your travel companions want, too) so that you can narrow those options down more quickly and maximize your enjoyment of the trip.
For travelers who like to seek out unique experiences, a couple of cruise lines offer their own private islands. That’s quite an enticement, promising relaxing, unspoiled beaches for those who want to sit back and soak in the pristine scenery as well as for those who want to get out in the turquoise water. Royal Caribbean Cruises takes passengers to its CocoCay, where they can do whatever they like – from swinging the day away in a hammock to bouncing and swimming through a floating playground.
For those who want to get as many different experiences as they can out of a trip, a lot of cruises offer a combination of destinations, which allows travelers to take in ports of call that they might otherwise miss. Royal Caribbean stops at Key West, Florida and King’s Wharf, Bermuda, for some added character. Norwegian Cruise Line offers a combined cruise of Florida and the Bahamas, which is sure to excite kids and relieve parents, by bringing together the eternally popular family destination of Orlando with the more exotic feel of Nassau and the paradise scenery of its private getaway, Great Stirrup Cay.
It can be tough to narrow down the choices of where to go to escape the winter blahs, but take a tip from other travelers – watch the places where they go and the places to which they return again and again. The popularity of the Bahamas is no accident, and when you consider all of its amenities, from idyllic beaches to reefs seemingly designed for snorkeling to friendly local people, it’s no surprise, either.