Plan A Quick Vacation Getaway To The Bahamas And Key West

Make your Short Getaway to Key West and the Bahamas a Vacation Sensation

By Eben Diskin | Published on March 6, 2023

The perfect island vacation means as little hassle as possible, and as much peace and relaxation as you can handle. That's what makes the Caribbean — particularly cruises to the Caribbean — so ideal for travelers looking to leave behind the daily grind.

Cruising on a Key West getaway is the best place to start. Here, you'll find a laid-back vacation destination that feels oceans away from home. Closer to Havana than Miami, Key West, Florida, certainly moves on island time, with a stunning natural landscape, an abundance of exciting bars and restaurants, colorful buildings and the historic Old Town. From scuba diving and snorkeling to exploring the coral reefs of Dry Tortugas National Park, a Key West vacation has everything you could want in a tropical getaway.

Extend your short sojourn to Key West with a stop in the Bahamas for the ultimate cruise vacation. Just off the coast of Florida, the Bahamas has something for everyone. Nearly 700 coral islands make up the Bahamas — and only 30 of those are inhabited. The capital Nassau sits on New Providence Island, which remained under British rule — along with the rest of the Bahamas — until 1973. Though the islands gained their independence decades ago, traces of British culture remain, like driving on the left side of the road.

It's so exciting to dive into the distinct culture here, consisting of Goombay music and local cuisine like johnnycakes, rock lobsters, pigeon peas and rice, and guava duff. Add the rambunctious pigs on Great Exuma Island and snorkeling among the reefs, and you've got more than enough fodder for an epic Bahamas vacation.

Where To Start Your Key West And Bahamas Getaway Vacation

Royal Caribbean cruises to the Bahamas year-round. The first step to planning your vacation is to choose your port. Picking the right port is important not just for convenience, but because the port is a destination in itself. The port is your home base, and you'll want to take full advantage of it either before you board or after you depart. Vacation cruises to Key West and the Bahamas depart from Miami, Tampa and Orlando in Florida, and Galveston, Texas.

Miami, one of the busiest and most popular cruise ports in the country, is a destination to explore before or after your cruise. Miami is home to eclectic, personality-filled neighborhoods, stunning beaches, bumping nightlife, historic lighthouses, and world-class restaurants and shopping — not to mention famous Art Deco architecture.
Though Tampa is not quite as bustling as Miami, the city sits on the beautiful Gulf of Mexico, and has plenty to make you consider extending your stay for a few port excursions. Explore the historic Cuban-Spanish neighborhood of Ybor City before checking out the SS American Victory, a World War II ship that's now a museum. You can then stroll the Tampa Riverwalk, a scenic 2.6-mile pedestrian trail along the river that connects the city's many parks, public spaces, museums and other attractions.
Orlando, Florida, also known as Port Canaveral, is another excellent jumping-off point to cruise to Key West. While the area is perhaps most famous for the Kennedy Space Center, cruises as well as rocket ships launch here. Before or after your cruise, you can kayak with manatees in the Banana River lagoon, zipline at Brevard Zoo, check out the Orange County Regional History Center, and of course, visit Orlando's sprawling theme parks just an hour away.
All that said, not all Key West getaways start in Florida. Galveston, Texas, also offers cruises to Key West. From Galveston, consider extending your short trip to a nine-day getaway that hits Key West before heading to Nassau, Perfect Day at CocoCay, and Bimini in the Bahamas, and even Cozumel, Mexico. The seaside city of Galveston is known for its rich past, defined by oil, railroads and the Gulf Coast's history of pirates. City streets are lined with well-preserved Victorian mansions, as well as antique shops, buzzing bars and restaurants.

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To start planning your Bahamas and Key West getaway vacation, check out cruises to both tropical destinations running year round.

Key West Vacation: Rich History And Florida's Floral Beauty

Key West and the Bahamas make for a wonderful short getaway because both destinations offer incredible tropical experiences you can hit in just one day. A Key West vacation combines the best of local history, pristine natural landscapes and thrilling ocean adventure; springtime for example brings the most flowering tree bloomage. Start your visit by checking out the Key West Lighthouse and Keeper's Quarters Museum, which first opened in 1848. Originally built by the U.S. Navy to guide ships around the area's many coral reefs, the lighthouse was in operation until 1969, and now serves as a fascinating museum dedicated to lighthouse keepers.
Literary buff or not, it's well-worth visiting the The Hemingway Home and Museum. Flanked by palm trees, the 1851 Spanish Colonial-style mansion was the home of Ernest Hemingway and his wife Pauline when they moved to Key West in 1931. Inside, you'll find many of the family's personal effects, including antiques they collected on their jaunts to Europe, and hunting trophies Hemingway brought back from his African hunting safaris. Some of his most famous works were also produced in the home's studio, like "To Have and Have Not" — his novel about Key West during the Great Depression.
For the most comprehensive tour of Key West, hop onboard the Conch Train, a journey into Key West's storied past. Running since 1958, the train brings visitors to Mallory Square, a waterfront area filled with local seafood spots. Here you have your pick of so many things to do in Key West, including the Key West Shipwreck Museum, the Key West Aquarium, the Harry S. Truman Little White House, the Sails to Rails Museum and the Cayo Hueso y Habana Historeum — a Cuban history museum. A Ghosts & Gravestones evening tour is even available, where you'll hear all about Key West's haunted happenings, of which there are many.
Closer to Havana than Miami, Key West certainly moves on island time, with a stunning natural landscape, an abundance of exciting bars and restaurants, colorful buildings, and the historic Old Town.

Bahamas Vacation: Explore The Caribbean Wildlife And Island Adventures

From Key West, it's time to sail to the Bahamas. White sand beaches, stunning wildlife and diverse culture define this massive group of islands, making them one of the best Caribbean destinations for sun and adventure seekers.

You can't visit the Bahamas for vacation without seeing the famous swimming pigs of the Exuma Island chain. Big Major Cay is the island most famous for its pig population, with around 20 pigs and piglets living here completely carefree. The pigs aren't island natives, and no one is quite sure how they first arrived here, but they've nonetheless made the island home. "Pig Beach" is uninhabited by humans and only accessible by boat, via a guided tour. Once there, you'll be able to swim alongside not only pigs, but also nurse sharks, and you can even have a sandbar picnic.

If sharks are more enticing to you than pigs, go scuba diving at Runway Wall. Located right off the coast of Nassau, divers can explore shipwrecks, underwater walls and reefs, all while swimming alongside reef sharks. Some tour companies even offer a shark-feeding experience, where divers can get up close and personal with the animals. Also in Nassau, check out the James Bond Wrecks, so named for its role in several Bond films. Bond fans will instantly recognize the impressive coral formations from the big screen. For a more mild, shark-free experience, go snorkeling at Elbow Cay or Fowl Cays National Park in the Abacos, islands known for their clear, lagoon-like water.

Blue Lagoon Island might be the most holistic Bahamas adventure experience. This private island is just three miles from Nassau, so it's easily reachable when you only have one day in port. Blue Lagoon has everything from Caribbean wildlife encounters to Segway tours and curated beach days. Spend a tranquil day sitting by the lagoon enjoying a buffet lunch, dive into the lagoon with California sea lions and stingrays, or take an eco-adventure tour through the island's unique flora and marine geology.

Before your cruise sets sail back home, cap off your incredible Bahamas getaway vacation with a nice, cold Bahama Mama cocktail. A Bahama Mama consists of dark rum, coconut rum, grenadine and orange liqueur. Yes, it's just as fruity and refreshing as it sounds. While you can find a Bahama Mama pretty much anywhere in the Bahamas, make sure to order one at the Out Island Bar at Grand Hyatt Baha Mar — an open-air beachside bar with a retro vibe and throwback tunes. Embrace the laid-back island attitude and toast to your unforgettable quick vacation getaway.

Written By

Eben Diskin is a travel writer, amateur pizza connoisseur, avid Indoorsman, and the Senior Staff Writer at Matador Network. While traveling, he pretends to enjoy activities like hiking, camping, fine dining, and museums, when all he really wants to do is drink Jack and Cokes at the hotel bar. He has a degree in History from Wheaton College and a definitely-not-useless Master's in Fiction Writing from the University of Edinburgh.

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