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Cruise Ship Information

Besides being the only cruise ship sailing from the Port of Palm Beach, 1,200-passenger Bahamas Celebration has a few other distinctions: It only sails to Freeport, and its cruises are two-night roundtrip voyages. The company also offers a unique cruise-and-stay package that allows passengers to "check out" of the ship and into a resort on Grand Bahama Island for two, four or six nights before rejoining the vessel for the return trip.

With affordable prices, Bahamas Celebration is a solid choice for first-time cruisers who don't want to commit to a longer, more expensive voyage before testing the waters. That being said, the sales team can be relentless in their efforts to sell shore excursions, alcohol packages, wine tastings, specialty dining and other a la carte items. These additions to the ticket price can quickly increase the original, competitive cruise fare that passengers booked. However, those who decline the extras can still obtain a below-average rate on their Bahamas cruise vacation.

Because of its low commitment -- and the fact that the drinking age goes down to 18 once the ship is out of U.S. waters -- there are a lot of people using the ship as a weekend getaway to blow off steam. (Yes, it's a party boat.) Grand Bahama Island is an easy choice for travelers who haven't spent much time out of the United States. (Those booking the cruise-only package can travel without a passport as long as they have a raised-seal birth certificate and other form of photo identification.)

Bahamas Celebration is also known as the cruise ship touted in the "free cruise promotion" from a domestic wholesaler. Although the lowest-priced cabins are extremely small, upgrading to "standard" cabins offers more traditionally-sized rooms. Bahamas Celebration is not quite a mega-ship, but entertainment onboard and a festival-like atmosphere can make this a downright enjoyable way to travel to the Bahamas.

Bahamas Celebration Fellow Passengers

This is, without a doubt, a party cruise, especially during weekends when a high number of Floridians set sail on short getaways. During March and April, it's also filled with college students on Spring Break, taking advantage of the Bahamas' legal drinking age (18).

Although there are children's facilities available, Bahamas Celebration isn't geared specifically to families like some of the other mainstream lines. It does draw many first-time cruisers from the U.S. and international travelers. The age group ranges from early 20s to late 60s, with the majority hovering around their early 40s to 50s. Many passengers utilize the cruise-and-resort package, which does require a passport.

Bahamas Celebration Dress Code

Attire on the ship is extremely laid back, so rock those flip-flops, shorts and tropical shirts. In fact, during the day, a bathing suit seems to be the style of choice for many. Passengers planning on dining in the specialty restaurants or the Crystal Dining Room (which is one of two complimentary options) should wear more formal attire: a cocktail or sundress for ladies and button-up shirt and dress shoes for men. They do enforce the dress code, so those attempting to enter in sneakers and jean shorts will not be allowed (although Rio's accepts everyone).

Bahamas Celebration Gratuity

Bahamas Celebration will automatically add $12 per person, per day, onto each passenger's bill for waitstaff and room stewards. Putting a privacy sign up to prevent the staff from cleaning cabins does not prevent this charge from appearing. In addition, a 15 percent charge is added to bar bills, and $9 per person, per day, is levied for fuel surcharges, which is made clear during check-in. Valet parking in Palm Beach costs $16 per day.

Bahamas Celebration Cabins

Although the cruise line refers to its lowest-category cabins as "cozy," stifling would be a more accurate description. At 86 square feet, "Coach Cabins" are little more than walk-in closets and are significantly smaller than average cabins on other ships. Each features a double bed with a Pullman bed above it (inside/outside coach) or twin Pullmans stacked like bunk beds (upper/lower coach). Storage areas are virtually nonexistent, so luggage must be stowed under the beds and clothing hung on the few hangers provided. A television is the only real amenity and offers a handful of channels. Rooms could use some new decor: forgettable framed images, blue or red carpeting and off-white walls are about all there are.

Considering the size of the cabins, bathrooms are a bit more bearable, but there's no barrier between the shower and the rest of the bathroom, except a thin plastic shower curtain, so water can easily splash onto anything left on the floor. Walls are thin, and it can get noisy. Bar soap, conditioning shampoo and towels are provided in all cabins.

Coach cabins are the ones offered on the "free cruise promotion." This is one cruise line where springing for the cabin upgrade from the lowest price will grant a significantly more enjoyable experience and a bit of breathing room. Upgrading to an oceanview will at least allow some light in the cell-like room. There are six cabins in categories four and five (Standard Cabins) for people with disabilities. All rooms have Bahamian electric outlets, and although the concierge loans adapters, passengers may want to bring their own.

Upgrading to a Standard Cabin will grant 144 square feet of space -- a drastic improvement from the tiny coach cabins. At this level, the cabin sizes are around the same as the lowest cabin categories on other mainstream ships and contain more storage space, a minifridge, a mirror and a desk. Otherwise, they're similar to the Coach accommodations. Many can accommodate up to four passengers apiece (with Pullman beds), but it would be rather crowded.

Club Suites may vary in shape and setup, depending on location on the ship, and they range from 169 square feet of space to 269 square feet. These are located on the upper levels, beginning with Deck 6, away from the noisy pub area. Significantly more comfortable, suites also offer sofas, additional storage, hair dryers, minibars, coffee tables and separate showers.

Lastly, there are 12 Deluxe Suites, located both forward (eight) and aft (four), each with 231 to 269 square feet of space. These cabins have long windows or enclosed wood-paneled patios called "viewing areas" that contain sliding doors and a table and chairs. Windows open to allow a nice breeze, but they're not typical open-air balconies. (That option doesn't exist on Bahamas Celebration.) Deluxe Suites without viewing areas (containing long windows only) offer connections to neighboring suites.

Bahamas Celebration Dining

Most restaurants are located on Deck 4 (conveniently called Restaurant Deck). The ship's two specialty restaurants, the Cove and The Rock Grill, require advanced reservations, which can be made pre-cruise or after boarding.

Of the restaurants included in the cruise fares, breakfast, which begins at 7 a.m. and is served buffet style, is perhaps the best meal of the day. A decent selection of fruit, scrambled eggs, yogurt, bacon, sausage, pastries, cereal, coffee and orange juice is available on Deck 9, and Rio's also has an omelet and waffle station. Trattoria Di Gerry offers breakfast pastries with specialty coffees and blended beverages for an additional charge. Deck 9 is definitely the way to go for alfresco meals. It offers plenty of seats for open-air dining. The staff frequently passes by tables suggesting mimosas or bloody Marys to jump-start the day.

Trattoria Di Gerry is the grab-and-go pizzeria and pasta joint, open until 2 a.m. and located in front of Rio's. During lunch, the cuisine at both of these casual eateries is a step above cafeteria meals: think burgers, fries, unimpressive pastas and freezer-aisle pizza. However, there is a pleasant selection of flavorful desserts.

Two casual venues located on Deck 9 offer menu-priced items: DJ's Ice Cream (3 p.m. to 6 p.m.) and The Bull (1 p.m. to around midnight). While DJ's is limited to frozen treats, The Bull primarily serves burgers and sandwiches and also offers 24-hour room service.

Bahamas Celebration passengers have two options for dinner that are included in the cruise fare: Rio's and the Crystal Dining Room with reserved dining times of 6:15 p.m. or 8:30 p.m., chosen prior to boarding. On the first day, lunch is served from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Rio's and noon to 3 p.m. on the second day (although most people will be on the island). Trattoria Di Gerry is a second option for those arriving to Palm Beach later than 3 p.m.

During dinner at Rio's, passengers get their own appetizers and salads, and waiters deliver their entrees of choice, featuring items like honey ginger-glazed mahi mahi or roast prime rib with twice-baked potatoes. Service is focused on selling tropical drinks, wine and beer, so expect cocktail waiters to come by several times. Servers assigned to tables aren't as attentive with nonalcoholic drink refills and order taking.

In 2013, the Crystal Dining Room (also included in the price) saw significant cosmetic changes, giving it a sophisticated feel. The dining area has a small wine cellar, artistic lighting fixtures that resemble inverted glass bottles, white table clothes and an enforced dress code for a more traditional dining experience. Despite a more upscale dining room, the dinner menu is almost identical to the selections at Rio's (except for a few entree additions). It's not open for lunch.

Tucked away in a corner near the casino, The Cove serves significantly higher quality meals for a $30 per-person charge (plus 15 percent gratuity). This is ideal for a romantic evening or simply a change from the buffet scene and requires slightly more formal attire (long pants and collared shirts for men and evening gowns for women). There, passengers will find appetizers like escargot or warm goat cheese crepes and mains like Black Angus filet mignon or Chilean sea bass. Those seeking a well-rounded dining experience should consider booking reservations at this venue.

In keeping up with some of the latest dining trends, Bahamas Celebration unveiled the Rock Grill ($30 plus gratuity), a small venue that includes beef, ahi tuna, chicken medallions and shrimp that passengers cook right at their tables on heated black rocks. They can also choose from appetizers like Dim Sum, sushi and Miso soup. Desserts include Mandarin cheesecake or rice pudding. The Rock Grill is located on Deck 9.

Bahamas Celebration Entertainment

Bahamas Celebration lacks the "amusement park" amenities (rock climbing, zip lines, ice skating rinks, etc.) that have become the norm on many other ships, but there are certainly enough activities to keep people busy for two days.

The music doesn't stop from the moment passengers step onboard, with most of the action on Deck 9. Many cruisers lounge by the glass-enclosed pool or in one of two hot tubs, and others sip on coconut drinks from the adjacent bar or join group dancing.

Scheduled events happen throughout the day, including dance lessons, wine tastings, "Family Feud," Ping-Pong tournaments, pub trivia and bingo, as well as karaoke in the evenings. A listing of events is delivered to staterooms, and, while many activities are included in the cruise fares, some come with an additional charge.

Spanning two decks, The View is the main theater and lounge with balcony seating surrounding the center stage. It's transformed into a nightclub after the evening performances. Located forward, the 630-seat theater is an impressive space with angled floor-to ceiling windows, cocktail tables, decorative string lighting and a polished-wood bar.

A schedule of the evening shows is posted outside the entrance, as is a reservation booth for added-charge entertainment. For example, the early "Circus" show is complimentary and includes a comedian, a juggler and an extremely talented contortionist. The later adults-only comedy show is an additional charge of $10. Although the shows are not on the same level as the Broadway-style productions of other ships, they're still enjoyable.

The Wynmore Casino (get it?) is another option, and it even offers instructional gaming classes to help passengers learn how to spend their money on the tables. The casino is open until 3 a.m. and has plenty of slot machines, a bar and table games like blackjack, craps and poker. As usual, this is the one area of the ship where passengers need cash. An ATM is available, but it charges a hefty $8 per-transaction fee.

Pub 437 is a traditional British-style pub near the casino that showcases live music on a small stage (one musician playing "Free Bird" and other classics). There's a flat-screen television, half-booths for seating and plenty of room at the sparkling dark-wood bar. The bar is open until passengers leave, but it typically starts to shut down around midnight.

The beautiful Ocean Breeze Lounge can be a challenge to find, but it's located near the front of Deck 6. It features a dazzling chandelier, floor-to-ceiling windows, a glimmering piano, marble floors and wall panels with gold-trimmed polished wood. Karaoke contests are held there in the evenings.

The cruise line definitely pushes its shore excursions, and upon arrival at Freeport, the excursion desk will announce if it still has availability. Prices seem a bit inflated, but choices include snorkeling ($51 per person), jeep tours ($83), dolphin swims ($209), scuba diving ($141 for two tanks), beach resort days ($51), a deserted island cruise ($99), cave exploration ($59) and glass-bottom boat tours ($51). There isn't much in the port besides a few shops, so taking an excursion, hopping on a shuttle to Port Lucaya Marketplace or renting a car is recommended.

Bahamas Celebration Public Rooms

Upon entering the ship on Deck 3, passengers are greeted by a surprising central atrium that's home to the main glass-enclosed elevators. It's an inspiring welcome, and staff are on hand at the excursion desk, information center or concierge to help with questions or bookings.

To the right, a large souvenir gift shop can be found, and Deck 4 is home to a duty-free shopping table for jewelry and other pricier items. Souvenir photos, taken when passengers first stepped onboard, are available for sale near Rio's.

When exiting the ship, passengers gather at Deck 3, and announcements are made alerting them when there is no line. Those who take advantage of this will find disembarkation to be a breeze; otherwise, expect to be stuck in line when re-entering the United States.

The hallways of the ship are lined with brightly colored carpets that add to the tropical vacation theme, but corridors can be difficult to navigate at times, thanks to large, heavy doors that block hallway entrances.

On either side of the Ocean Breeze Lounge ,there's a card room and small "library" that offers board games in what could potentially be a place to catch up on a good book -- if it weren't for the nearby bar area blasting pop hits. These rooms contain classic porthole windows, giving them an old-fashioned, nautical feel that makes one want to sip on a scotch.

There are five computers in the entrance that charge a relatively reasonable 50 cents per minute for internet access, and WiFi is available for the same price for those who bring their own devices. A handful of small elevators is scattered around, and they're much faster than the main elevators, which are painfully slow. A conference room area is tucked away behind the Wynmore casino.

Bahamas Celebration Spa & Fitness

Another surprise is the Fountain of Youth spa and salon, which offers massages (with specials starting around $38), manicures and pedicures ($55), teeth whitening ($56), and couples' massages ($160), among other services. Although there is no sauna or steam room, the spa is a quiet, calming oasis and is larger than expected for a ship of Bahamas Celebration's size.

Calming scents linger through the halls into the lounge area, hair salon and four private treatment rooms. Within the spa is a small fitness center, and during the twice-monthly "Girls' Night Out" sailings, Bahamas Celebration offers complimentary Zumba classes. The spa is located on Deck 3, next to the entrance and gift shop.

On Deck 9, the main pool resembles a fish tank but is reserved for adults only. A kid's pool and waterslide are available on the opposite end of the vessel. There is also a recreation area with shuffleboard and some scheduled events.

Bahamas Celebration Family

For families, there are plenty of activities aimed at teens and kids, ages 3 to 12, as well as a 180-foot waterslide, splash zone and three separate kids club areas that are open until 1 a.m. There are no baby-sitting services, and clubs are closed while in port.

Club Coconuts (Deck 5) opens in the early afternoon and hosts events for kids of ages 3 to 9. Activities include Disney trivia, treasure hunts, balloon sculptures, face painting, "Simon Says," cupcake making and pajama parties. "Junior Cruisers" (ages 10 to 12 years) can head to Club Wave (Deck 5) to join in Xbox tournaments, music trivia, disco dancing, human twister, necklace making, movies and other games aimed at tweens.

Open Water Club Voyages is designed for teens, ages 13 to 17, and it's located on Deck 4 near The View nightclub. During the day, events include video game challenges, meet-and-greet activities and ice-breakers, followed by "Guitar Hero" jam sessions, "Wheel of Fortune," and "Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?" challenges. The dance club and karaoke kick off around 10 p.m.