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

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