Back in November, I had the opportunity to sail aboard Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line’s Grand Classica. Bahamas Paradise specializes in short, two-night runs from West Palm Beach, Florida to Freeport, Bahamas.

Grand Classica. Photo courtesy of Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line

A relative newcomer to the industry, the Bahamas Paradise lineage stretches back decades, all the way to Imperial Majesty Cruise Line, which operated a popular old ocean liner known as Regal Empress on a similar run. Absolutely beloved by guests, Regal Empress had its fate sealed by changing SOLAS (Safety Of Life At Sea) regulations. Sold for scrap in 2009, Imperial Majesty rebranded as Celebration Cruise Line, which eventually folded and rebranded in 2015 as Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line.

Grand Classica alongside in Freeport, Bahamas on November 23, 2018. Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

Bahamas Paradise acquired its second ship, Grand Classica in early 2018. It began life back in 1991 as Costa Cruises’ Costa Classica and was revolutionary at the time for that cruise line. It was the first purpose-built Costa ship that had been built in two decades, and the largest passenger liner constructed in Italy for an Italian company at that time.

Berthed in West Palm Beach, Florida, with the city’s adjacent cruise terminal visible. Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

Together with sister-ship Costa Romantica, which set sail in 1993, the duo were easily identifiable at sea thanks to their broad, tall hulls littered with rows of oversized porthole cabin windows and their circular discos which were affixed to the ship’s forward radar mast, high atop the navigation bridge.

Costa Classica was sold to Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line in late 2017 and entered service for the line in April of 2018 as Grand Classica.

Grand Classica is well-suited to these quick runs to the Bahamas thanks to a plethora of open deck space. Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

I had always wanted to sail aboard one of these original “Costa Twins”, so I jumped at the chance to sail aboard Grand Classica in her new iteration. Despite being a very budget offering (Bahamas Paradise sailings often go for less than a night in a Holiday Inn), I was impressed at the overall quality of the ship, the entertainment, and the onboard staff – all of which were top-notch.

The Pool Deck, facing forward. Grand Classica’s most defining feature is her circular public room near the ship’s radar mast. Formerly a disco, it is now a Sports Bar and Arcade. Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

Up on Deck 12, it is possible to walk right underneath the superstructure for the Sports Bar. Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

Formerly a disco aboard Costa Classica, this space is now the Crow’s Nest Sports Bar and Grill. Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

There are some hints of Costa’s very multilingual past onboard. Some signs are still in Italian, while others are printed in about six different languages. That’s slowly changing as the ship gets more miles to the Bahamas under her keel and her new owners swap old signage and branding out for new ones.

Food onboard was hit-and-miss. It’s satisfying, in a sort of “Well, now I’m full” way. But if you go in with appropriate expectations, it’s hard to be disappointed, particularly at this rock-bottom price point. Bonus points for the one specialty restaurant I tried during my sailing (The Rock Grill); shelling out a little bit for food really ratchets up the quality meter. My steak was superb, and cooking it over the superheated block of volcanic rock was an experience I’ve only had on upscale-luxury-line Silversea.

The attractive Yellow Elder Dining Room on Deck 8 aft serves as the main complementary dining venue aboard Grand Classica. Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

The wonderful outdoor seating at the Ocean View Buffet on Deck 10 became my favorite spot for breakfast and lunch. Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

Drinks were pleasantly boozy. No skimping or watering-down here; what was advertised as a two-ounce pour seemed to me to be frequently more than that. Beverage prices are extremely reasonable, and optional drink coupons can be purchased onboard that add a touch of inclusivity to the brand.

My Oceanview Stateroom was comfortable and uncomplicated, with cozy decor and a great bed. Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

This particular room on Deck 7 was very spacious for an oceanview cabin, and proved to be more than comfortable for a two-day sailing. Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

Bathrooms are decently-sized, with a sink, toilet, and stand-up shower. Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

My Oceanview Stateroom was well-appointed and more spacious than I was expecting. The oversized porthole window was a real treat and provided great views of the Atlantic during our all-too-short (and very slow) sail over to Freeport. Cruisers might want to bring a power adapter; only one North American-style outlet was to be had, with the others being the two-pronged European type. Beds and bedding were more comfortable than I was expecting, and the room was very quiet overall.

Reception Lobby, Grand Classica. Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

The upper-level of the mini-atrium on Deck 9, with its unique staircase that leads…Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

…down to the Encore Lounge on Deck 8. Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

In some ways, Grand Classica looks a little out-of-place in the Caribbean. Her interiors aren’t very tropical, with lots of brass, marble, and gorgeous wood panelling found throughout. She’d be great on a Mediterranean cruise. But that’s not really a con; it’s more of a quantifier, and this ship certainly exudes class in every public room.

The Encore Lounge on Deck 8 midships became my favorite nighttime hangout on Grand Classica. Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

A full-service bar is here, serving appropriately boozy drinks. Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

Nightly live music is a real feature worth sticking around for here. Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

My favorite onboard spot was the Encore Lounge on Deck 8 midship. Bright and airy, this lounge spans the entire width of the ship and features a central staircase that heads up to the shops and café bar on Deck 9. At night, trivia games and live jazz music are offered here, and the performers on my sailing could have given those on more upscale lines like Cunard a run for their money. I found the Encore Lounge to be charming and cozy, and I gravitated here both nights I was onboard.

Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

The ship has a small and rather under-used casino that is adjacent to the Regal Room on Deck 9 aft. The Regal Room offers 180-degree views of the stern of the ship and often serves as a sort of pseudo-disco playing Latin music late at night.

Getting around the ship is easy thanks to a pair of colour-coded staircases. Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

Grand Classica has a small, if slightly underused, casino. Bonus: no smoking is allowed here. Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

Evening entertainment production shows were featured each evening in the Legends Grand Theatre, which also doubled as my muster station point for the mandatory lifeboat drill. It’s a really beautiful space with some seats for solo travellers like myself, but watch out for those pillars; they block sight lines from some of the upper-level seats.

Legends Theatre. Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

Stateroom corridors are attractively designed…Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

…and Grand Classica has an appropriately sophisticated, old-world feel throughout. Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

Overall, this ship offers a wonderful (if very fast) cruise to the Bahamas that should be able to fit any budget. It is a great introduction to cruising for those who have never been before, and a wonderful “quick fix” for folks like me that are looking to expand their collection of ships and ports of call.

Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

You can find out more about Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line by visiting their website by clicking here.


Gone Cruising

On September 4, 2018 By

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