Carnival Cruise: How to Visit the Bahamas on a Budget

January 18, 2016

Bahamas on a budget

Have you ever looked at a friend’s Facebook pictures of frolicking fun on exotic islands and wondered how they could afford it?  Have you lamented being able to visit the Bahamas on a budget?

You’re not alone.

Taking a tropical vacation with a limited budget is easier than you think.  Carnival’s cruises to the Bahamas out of the cruise ports in Miami, Charleston or Jacksonville are affordable and fun.

The dreamy Bahamas, a coral-based grouping of 700 islands in the Atlantic Ocean, are renowned for their shimmering turquoise water, white-sand beaches, and year-round delightful climate.

Bahamas on a budget

While the cost for flights and resorts on the islands can wreak havoc on your wallet, Carnival’s three-to-five day cruises start at just $189.  That’s less than $100 a day and includes three (or more, if you’re so inclined) meals, your cabin, and a host of onboard entertainment and activities.

The cruises dock at one or more of the following islands: Freeport on the island of Grand Bahama, Nassau on the island of New Providence, Paradise Island, and/or Half Moon Cay – Holland America’s (Carnival’s partner) private Little San Salvador Island.

In port, you don’t have to spend money on expensive shore excursions if you don’t want to.  There are other options to have plenty of fun.


Bahamas on a budget

Freeport is on Grand Bahama, the archipelago’s northernmost island and the fourth-largest isle in the Bahamas’ 700-island chain. After you disembark, you’ll find shuttle buses and taxis ready and eager whisk you away to activities nearby.

Port Lucaya Beach

Bahamas on a budget

This small but picturesque beach is the most popular with the cruise crowd.  One reason is the free admission.  The other is the convenient location across from the Marketplace (see below) making it a two-for-one excursion.  The beach is quite rocky which is great for photos but not for sunbathing.  There are water sports available for rental at one end of the beach.  If you want a beach with more amenities, you can buy a day pass at one of the adjacent resorts.

Port Lucaya Marketplace

Bahamas on a budget

Across from the beach, you can’t miss the iconic pastel painted shops, cafes, take-out kiosks, and bars.  There’s always some kind of entertainment, from live music to live iguanas. At one end is a handicraft, jewelry and souvenir market.

Zorba’s Greek Restaurant

Bahamas on a budget

I had to include Zorba’s because I make it a point to go there every time I’m in Freeport.  One reason is that I love their fresh-made conch fritters.  The other, albeit the main reason, is to scoff down one of their over-sized pieces of melt-in-your-mouth baklava.  Zorba’s is located in the Port Lucaya Marketplace.

Taino Beach

Bahamas on a budget

If you are in search of a gorgeous, iridescent green-blue beach, take a short taxi ride to Taino Beach.  There’s a big, festive, open-air restaurant on the beach with an active bar selling those must-have umbrella drinks.  The restaurant streams cheerful calypso music.  Beach chairs and umbrellas are available for rental.  There is also a small pier for fishing or photo ops.


 Bahamas on a budget

Nassau, on the island of New Providence, is the capital and largest city of the Bahamas. Arguably the most popular cruise-ship stop, it’s known for its beaches and coral reefs, and watersports. Charming pastel-colored British colonial buildings are located throughout the island.

Junkanoo Beach

Bahamas on a budget

Close to the cruise port is a small but nice beach that you can walk to.  Just head out to the downtown area.  At Senior Frogs, take a left and stay on the sidewalk for about five minutes and you’ll find yourself at this beach with soft sand and variegated blue and green water.

Straw Market

Bahamas on a budget

A five-minute walk from the cruise ship will bring you to the Straw Market.  Rows, stalls, and kiosks of every type of souvenir await you to be bartered for with very friendly locals.

If your budget has a little leeway, Freeport and Nassau have options for excursions like snorkeling or ATV tours of the island.


Paradise Island in the Bahamas is located just off the northern edge of the island of New Providence, connected by two bridges across Nassau Harbor. It’s best known for the mega Atlantis Paradise Island Resort and Casino with its nightlife, fine dining, water park and pools.

Cabbage Beach

Bahamas on a budget

This beach was named by CNN as #6 of the Top 100 Beaches in the World.  Isn’t that reason enough to visit?  The turquoise water is mesmerizing. A taxi at the port will cost you a mere $4.00 to get to this gem.  Put it on your bucket list.


Bahamas on a budget

Cruisers who can splurge on just one excursion will generally choose a day pass to Atlantis.  In addition to a beautiful beach next to Cabbage Beach, you’ll have access to a plethora of fun activities at this mega-complex.

3b Atlantis Lazy River

Tube down the lazy river for a splashing good time.  In my opinion, it should be renamed the “Crazy River.”  It’s not to be missed.

Bahamas on a budget

The other highlight is the water slide called the “Leap of Faith.”  I really didn’t want to do it.  The near-vertical drop from the top of the Mayan pyramid through a clear glass tube with sharks swimming around was intimidating.  But I can never pass up a dare, so I did it.  “You started screaming before you even started to drop,” said my sister, Aimee.  She may or may not have been right.


Bahamas on a budget

Half Moon Cay is an idyllic deserted island paradise where you can channel your inner castaway.  This is the ultimate chill on the beach opportunity and it won’t cost a penny extra to spend the day there.  Located on 55 acres of the 2,400-acre Little San Salvador Island, Half Moon Cay has been rated as “Best Private Island” by Porthole Cruise Magazine for the past four years. The crystal turquoise water is great for snorkeling. Horses are available for riding on the beach.

5. On Board

On this last cruise, I made two new discoveries on board during my last cruise to the Bahamas….and they were free.


A rainy sea day on the return trip had me scouting the ship for additional things to do.  I never knew that the ships had a library on board with books and games for passengers.  I found and played a couple of rounds of Dominoes – reminiscent of playing with my grandmother as a small girl.

Mongolian Wok


I always opt for the more formal nighttime dining option because the food is so good and I really like getting to know the other cruisers assigned to my table.  But for lunch, I’d generally chosen from the buffet, hamburger grill, deli, or pizza.  But my last ship had a Mongolian Wok.  You select from a large variety of starches, veggies, meats, and sauces, which are thrown into a wok, seared, and cooked to perfection.  I could not get enough of this savory, spicy option for lunch.

Signing off, from my temporary office….until my next cruise!

Bahamas on a budget

Looking to explore more of the Bahamas? Check out the top 8 places to go in the Bahamas.

Click on the image below to PIN so you can find again:


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  1. Comment by Janice Chung

    Janice Chung Reply January 19, 2016 at 9:02 am

    I stayed in the Bahamas at an all inclusive. I would have MUCH preferred what you did. You saw and did more vs. just lying on the beach or by the pool. Hat’s off to you for holding that……um……creature!

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply January 19, 2016 at 10:54 am

      I love the Bahamas for a quick trip! As for that… creature… sometimes I question my own sanity!

  2. Comment by Esti

    Esti Reply January 19, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    It is so important to get away!!! I went to the Bahamas and Paradise Island a couple of years ago, it is still my happy place!!

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply January 19, 2016 at 2:52 pm

      That is so true! I’m so glad you had such a great time — I hope you are able to go back soon.

  3. Comment by Michele Peterson ( A Taste for Travel)

    Michele Peterson ( A Taste for Travel) Reply January 20, 2016 at 8:49 am

    Both Taino Beach and Halfmoon Cay look idyllic – the beaches of the Bahamas are definitely on my must-visit list.

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply January 20, 2016 at 9:50 am

      Both beaches are gorgeous, Michele! In fact, I’m heading back to Half Moon Cay in just a few days!

  4. Comment by Cee

    Cee Reply January 11, 2017 at 10:53 pm

    As I was searching online for affordable excursions for my family’s upcoming cruise, this site was definitely one of the most helpful! Thank you so much.

  5. Pingback: 20 Best Caribbean Islands. #1 May Shock You! - Luggage and Lipstick

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