Florida Cruise Guide ship spotlight -- Discovery Cruise Lines' one-day cruise to Bahamas
Prices start at $19.99 for weekdays, plus fees
The Discovery leaves Port Everglades for a day cruise to Freeport Grand Bahama Island. (LOU TOMAN, SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL / March 9, 2009)
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Itinerary: The ship leaves at 7:45 a.m. daily except Wednesdays from Port Everglades (park at the Convention Center garage, $15 per day). The ship docks in Grand Bahama Island (also known as Freeport) from 1-4:45 p.m., then returns to Port Everglades at 10 p.m.
Need to know: Bring your U.S. passport (16 and older) and your picture ID. Obtain embarkation forms ahead of time at DiscoveryCruiseLine.com.
Food: Free breakfast buffet (scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, fruit, grits, potatoes and such) at 8 a.m.; dinner buffet (fried chicken, fish, pasta, ribs, rice, salad bar, dessert etc.) at 6 p.m. Discovery also sells an upgraded sit-down plan at its Grand Bahama Grill. Champagne breakfast is $8.95, lunch is $12.95, dinner (salmon, filet mignon) is $19.95, or all three for $29.95. Hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken wings, nachos for sale all day, for $4.95 or lower. Pina coladas, daiquiris and other frozen drinks for $5.95. Domestic beer is $3.75. They tack 17 percent onto everything.
No free lunch: Because so many people are on either end of a longer Bahamas vacation, the ship is almost empty during lunch time, so there is no free lunch buffet.
What to do on the ship: About the same as on more expensive and longer cruises, although most passengers know they're on a budget ride. So the hula-hoop contest, bingo, trivia contest, karaoke and lounge show might feel musty. Keep your expectations low, and just enjoy being out on the high seas in the fresh air. Also, because check-in puts you at the port around 6 a.m., you might enjoy a post-breakfast nap on deck.
Gambling: The cheapest blackjack in Broward County, at $5 per hand. ( The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino's min is $10.) Also slot machines, 3-card poker, craps and roulette, and there aren't many gamblers so spots to test your luck are usually easy to find. But Texas Hold 'em poker players are out of luck. The casino closes when the ship is in port.
Want quiet? The Prop Lounge is as serene as it can get. The room was a casino until about three years ago and is laid out as though you're inside an airplane, with four banks of reclining seats, each with six rows and three seats across. If don't have a cabin but want to nap, here's the place: And there isn't anyone telling you to keep your seat belt buckled or your tray table up.
Want to stay connected? Cell phone coverage is spotty. There are four computers available to connect to the Internet ($3 minimum gets you 12 minutes). We tried them twice; once it wouldn't connect, the other time it disconnected. Note to football-watchers: There are only two small TVs, one at the casino bar and the other at the disco/game room.
What to do in the Bahamas? Day cruisers have about four hours, but with everything a 20-minute cab ride away, it computes to about one activity. So do some planning. Among the excursions Discovery offers is a beach party that includes transportation to the beach, a Bahama Mama drink, beach games and lounge chairs that's $19.95 for adults, $15 for children 12 and under. Considering we paid $10 alone for a round-trip cab to crash a hotel beach and another $6 for a domestic beer, it's a better deal than you think. If you go it alone, there's shopping at the straw market, a casino at Port Lucaya or just sitting on the ship and reading.
The deal: The day cruise for Florida residents starts at $19.99 on weekdays, $29.99 on weekends and peak holiday season, but demand dictates the price. Like the airlines, if the 1,200-capacity ship is filling up, the rates rise. Taxes and fees tack on another $29 per person, more on holidays. Cruise and hotel packages for Florida and non-Florida residents start at $39.99 (hotel extra). Some people on the ship said by calling during slow days, the sales reps came down a little. Cabins are $40 to $85, and often sell out.
Bottom line: With fares and fees for two, a cabin, tips, drinks, a little gambling, a couple souvenirs, cab and lunch on our own, this was a $379 day. A reasonable price for coming home relaxed.
Info: 800-866-8687, DiscoveryCruiseLine.com.