3 Ways to Spend a 3-Night Royal Caribbean Cruise to the Bahamas

by  Donna Heiderstadt | Feb 26, 2020
Perfect Day at CocoCay
Perfect Day at CocoCay / Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

Royal Caribbean is one of the most versatile, affordable, and value-packed cruise lines out there. You’ve seen the prices (as low as $249 per person for a three-night weekend cruise to the Bahamas from Port Canaveral) and the mesmerizing commercials for Perfect Day at CocoCay (the cruise line’s private-island playground), so you might be wondering if this short-and-sweet itinerary is right for you. 

A recent sailing aboard Mariner of the Seas (which was revamped in 2018 and cruises this three-night Bahamas itinerary year-round) revealed that this vacation offers something for everyone. Here are three ways — a girlfriends’ getaway, a guys’ weekend and a multi-generation family mini-vacation — to enjoy it all.

First, Get in a Day Early and Stay at the Orlando Hotel Airport

Avid Hotel Orlando International Airport. / Courtesy of the property

While this is a weekend itinerary (embarkation takes place around midday on Friday), take the flight-delay worry out of your arrival by flying into Orlando on Thursday night and stay at the new Avid Hotel Orlando International Airport. With 91 modern rooms complete with super-comfortable beds, easy grab-and-go-breakfast options, and a shuttle to the terminal where you can connect with your Royal Caribbean transfer to Port Canaveral, the property will leave you well-rested for all of the onboard fun to come. Rates from $114 per night. 

Option A: Girlfriends’ (or Bachelorette) Getaway

Schooner Bar on Mariner of the Seas / Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

If your mission is to party all weekend long, welcome aboard: but you probably won’t be the only ladies wearing glittery sashes and T-shirts. In fact, this itinerary is especially popular for bachelorette weekends. 

Day 1: Have lunch at the Windjammer Marketplace buffet and soak up some sun at the pool before the sail away deck party (where “Let’s Get Loud” by Jennifer Lopez blasts on repeat). Dress casual for the festivities; bikinis and cute cover-ups are the perfect attire for dancing and sipping margaritas. Afterwards, head to the Main Dining Room to enjoy shrimp cocktail, steak, and seafood (you can even try escargot) before heading to Ellington’s Jazz Lounge for a silent disco party, or to the Royal Promenade to embrace your inner disco diva with a dance party. 

Day 2: Shop, relax at the beach, and snooze by the pool: With almost 12 hours in Nassau, it’s possible to do it all. Book a beach excursion (or a taxi to nearby Cable Beach) and, after, browse the duty-free shops along Bay Street for bargain perfumes or sparkly splurges. Back on board, enjoy the last rays of sunshine by the pool. Then, change into your favorite outfit and keep the revelry going over pre-dinner cocktails at the Polynesian-inspired Bamboo Room. Tonight’s the night to savor creamy burrata and fresh pasta at Jamie’s Italian (reserve in advance) before heading up to Ellington’s for more silent disco or to Schooner Bar to sing along to the live piano music. 

Day 3: Bright, cheerful, and ringed with white sand and turquoise sea, CocoCay island is the place to play. Feeling fearless? Book a day pass to Thrill Waterpark ($59.99) and scream your way down the waterslides (tip: Boomerang, a four-person raft slide, makes for a great Instagram video). Alternatively, lounge in style and splurge on one of the new overwater cabanas at Coco Beach Club or mingle with other cruisers at the swim-up bar at Oasis Lagoon (your beverage package is included here). After a fun-filled day exploring CocoCay, it’s time to enjoy your final night on board. Head to Boleros for pre-dinner mojitos and Latin music, dine on steak or lobster at Chop's Grille ($39 per person; reserve in advance), and channel your inner Madonna at the ‘80s-themed dance party on the Royal Promenade.

Tip: It’s a celebration, so if you and your gals plan to indulge in lots of wine or cocktails, pre-book a beverage package. The $65 Specialty Dining Package is also a good deal for two dinners. 

Option B: A Weekend (or Bachelor Party) with the Guys

Playmakers Sports Bar and Arcade / Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

There’s no shortage of millennial-aged males aboard Mariner of the Seas, which has all the bars, restaurants, and activities (plus a sizable casino) you need for the ultimate guys’ weekend at sea. 

Day 1: Use your first few hours on board to devise a plan that mixes onboard thrills with beer appreciation — just beware of the belly flop contest! You’ll likely find yourselves drawn to a few key areas: the buzzy pool bar on Deck 11, the Dog House for grab-and-go snacks (and obviously, hot dogs), and the sports zone on Deck 13, which is complete with a rock climbing wall, FlowRider surf simulator, and lightning-fast waterslides. After dark, visit Decks 4 and 5, where you’ll find Casino Royale, Barnacle & Barrel Pub, and Playmakers Sports Bar and Arcade. At Playmakers, you can kick off your weekend trip by enjoying craft beer and noshing on nachos, sliders, and wings as you watch live sports on the big-screen TV or play a game of Skee-ball with your buds. 

Day 2: Sleep in today: Casino Royale will be closed while the ship is docked in Nassau. But, by midday, head to the world-famous casino at Atlantis on nearby Paradise Island. Use your winnings —think positive — to stock up on cigars or your favorite liquor before re-boarding Mariner of the Seas and giving boogie boarding, stand-up surfing, or rock climbing a try. Return to the ship to refuel on sirloin or strip steaks at Chops Grille and close out the night at the sports bar, casino, or silent disco. 

Day 3: Surprisingly (or not), most of the guests at Thrill Waterpark at CocoCay are grown men. After you zip down the slides, head to the swim-up bar at Oasis Lagoon. Once you’re back on the ship, catch up on the sports at Playmakers, join the crowd for the ‘80s-themed party, or head to the blackjack table.

Tip: Needless to say, purchasing a beverage package is a must. And, if you can handle four guys in a single stateroom, look out for third and fourth passenger discount promotions.

Option C: A Multi-Generational Family Mini Vacation 

Main Dining Room on Mariner of the Seas / Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

It’s tough to find a full week when the entire extended family can take time off to share a vacation, so this weekend cruise is a great option for groups with tweens, teens, parents, grandparents, and even aunts and uncles in the mix. 

Day 1: Head straight to Deck 11, where poolside relaxation and lunch await. From tasty franks and bratwurst at the Dog House to a global smorgasbord of flavors at the Windjammer Marketplace buffet, to frozen custard at Arctic Zone, the options are limitless. Once you eat, explore the ship and stake out your favorite spots — perhaps Deck 13 for sports and activities like the FlowRider surf simulator, Sky Pad virtual-reality bungy experience, Perfect Storm waterslides, and the rock climbing wall; Deck 5 for the shops, bars, and lounges that make up the Royal Promenade; and Deck 4 for trivia challenges and bingo. Then, regroup for the sail away party before enjoying dinner in the Main Dining Room. Come nighttime, check out the one of the ice shows in Studio B and join the cruise line’s signature welcome party and “Balloon Drop” (where, you guessed it, hundreds of colorful balloons are dropped from the ceiling, and yes, it’s definitely an Instagram-worthy moment) on the Royal Promenade.

Day 2: Nassau offers an array of family-friendly excursions — including several to Blue Lagoon Island for beach time plus dolphin, sea lion, and stingray interactions. You can also book a day pass to the incredible waterpark and aquarium over at Atlantis. Back onboard, the excitement continues with mini-golf, glow-in-the-dark laser tag, and the Royal Escape Room Challenge, which are all included in the cruise fare (though reservations for the escape room are required). Stick to complimentary dining with Windjammer Marketplace or the Main Dining Room, or go casual with retro diner-style shakes, burgers, and fries at Johnny Rockets (from $6.95 per person). End the night at the Kamikaze Karaoke game show, where contestants don’t know what they’ll be singing until they’re on stage — and the audience can gong them off.

Day 3: Whether your family members want to scream their way down a waterslide, float in an invigorating wave pool (the largest in the Caribbean!), or plop down on a chaise with a piña colada in hand, CocoCay lives up to its promise — and there’s something for everyone here. Lunch is complimentary, but you’ll have to pay to enjoy the adrenaline rush of Thrill Water Park or the short-but-scenic helium balloon ride ($45.99). Once you’re back on board, gather for dinner in the Main Dining Room and enjoy a final night of comedy showcases, ice skating performances, and ‘80s music that will have everyone dancing. 

Tip: Check stateroom configurations to decide who will room together. Some cabins can accommodate third and fourth passengers (at a discount if you book during a promotion). Note: Any guest wishing to purchase an alcoholic beverage package must do so for all guests of legal drinking age in the same stateroom.

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