Spending the Day on a Private Island – the Ultimate Port of Call

We love the idea of spending the day on a private island……………

Following are the top five reasons to visit a private island on your next cruise:

1. The red carpet treatment – On a private island like Holland America’s Half Moon Cay, your every whim can be attended to in the highly sought-after private cabanas. For a fee, cruise passengers can reserve these cabanas (each of which includes an outdoor freshwater shower/misting station and indoor dining room and changing area) in advance and then be doted on by private butlers, who fill beverage glasses, prepare hot and chilled appetizers and present cool cucumbers to soothe guests’ eyes from the tropical sun.

2. Dynamic “wow” amenities – For the active crowd, a variety of optional island explorations, shopping and water sports activities will keep the indefatigable going all day long. Choose from “beach Olympics,” snorkeling with stingrays, personal watercraft tours, kayak lagoon tours and parasailing. Other options include a tour via jeep, whale-watching or a fun-filled floating aqua playground.

3. The “exotic” quotient – The luxurious offerings of a private island are the makings for a great travel story. There’s nothing ordinary about time spent on a gorgeous beach in a foreign land. This is not your standard vacation experience. A visit to a private island sets this voyage apart from others.

4. Spectacular natural beauty – the Caribbean islands offer some of the world’s most visually stunning locales. Photographs will capture a true heaven on earth. Cerulean waters, dazzling coral reefs, picturesque beaches, gorgeous plants and native wildlife take center stage. When you leave, it will be with a greater appreciation of our planet’s natural beauty.

5. The ultimate in relaxation – A visit to a private island whisks you away from the pressures of everyday life and allows you to experience true contentment and relaxation. Beach umbrellas, cabanas and other shady spots are available to those who want to step out of the sun, and beachside massages soothe the senses. Gain a little extra privacy in the seclusion of one of the islands’ more quiet beaches. And don’t worry about keeping children busy; families are more than welcome, with plenty to do for all ages. There are aqua parks, hiking trails and other kid-friendly activities, so sit back, relax, and enjoy the beach life!

Each line has its own set of luxury amenities, so here’s what you can expect when you visit one of these vacation oases:

Costa Cruises – Costa Cruises voyages stop at Catalina Island, located just 1.5 miles from the southeast corner of the mainland of the Dominican Republic. The line has a private beach on this island that features activities such as volleyball, snorkeling, “beach Olympics” and massages. Vacationers can also rent jet skis, go for banana-boat rides or simply relax on the beach. Day tours that explore the island are popular. It’s a treasure trove of culture and relaxation, with local musicians and exclusive shopping that add to its charm.

Disney Cruise Line – Disney’s Castaway Cay provides plenty of magical fun for people of all ages, and caters to guests in true Disney style, with all the conveniences. A major bonus of Castaway Cay is that the island features cruise ship-docking capabilities (versus shuttle boats between the ship and island), which allows guests to easily travel back and forth to their ship. Attractions include the Castaway Family Beach, Serenity Bay for adults, a teens-only activity area called The Hide Out and supervised programs for children at Scuttle’s Cove. There are also numerous water sports, biking, snorkeling parasailing, fishing and various water tour excursions. Recent upgrades (in 2010) include an expansion of the family beach area, the addition of deluxe private cabanas and a fantastic new waterslide.

Holland America – Holland America’s Half Moon Cay has been ranked “Best Private Island” by Porthole Cruise Magazine for 11 years running, and is located on Little San Salvador Island in the Bahamas. (The island must remain 98% undeveloped as an international bird sanctuary.) The Cay’s 700-acre lagoon allows guests to feed stingrays and enjoy various water sports, a children’s aqua park and a buoyed personal watercraft course. Other features include private beachside cabanas with private butler service, showers and misters and eco-tours by glass-bottom boat.

Norwegian Cruise Line – Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian’s private island, recently pledged to dedicate $25 million to preserve and enhance this 250-acre Bahamian retreat. Located approximately 120 nautical miles east of Fort Lauderdale in the Berry Island chain of the Bahamas, Great Stirrup Cay features snorkeling, paddle boats, sailboats, kayaks and parasailing. They’ve expanded their beachfront area, added a new Tender Pavillion (which makes getting on and off the island easier) and new dining facilities. The line also reports that they intend to add private beachfront cabanas, a new winding river and additional nature trails and beaches to this already-impressive island. The Hippo Water Slide, the world’s largest inflatable waterslide – 40 feet high and 175 feet long– remains a visitor favorite. (This feature does incur a separate cost, but families report it’s not to be missed.) Regent Seven Seas Cruises website currently shows shore excursion “information coming soon” for this island, so it looks like they may be visiting as well.

Paul Gauguin Cruises – Paul Gauguin visits Motu Mahana, part of the Society Islands. This lovely island offers a world of culture, with local crafts and cuisine, along with music and vanilla plantation tours. There is also waterskiing, kayaking and windsurfing available for the sports-minded crowd.

Princess Cruises The line visits Princess Cays, which is located on the southern portion of Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas, approximately 80 miles from Nassau. This lovely island features white-sand beaches and turquoise waters that make for great snorkeling and swimming. Water lovers can also rent aqua bikes, seaboards, paddleboats, clear-hull kayaks, sailboats or float rafts. Guests looking for pure relaxation can do some shopping, taste the island cuisine and exotic cocktails or just soak up the warm Caribbean sun. There are plenty of beach umbrellas, tiki huts and hammocks hung beneath dozens of shady trees.

Royal Caribbean and Celebrity – Coco Cay, which features the 20,000 square-foot aqua playground Caylana’s Castle Cove, is an island designed exclusively for Royal Caribbean and Celebrity passengers. It’s a perfect spot for water lovers, featuring a white-sand beach, wave runners and snorkeling among coral reefs with vibrant tropical fish and sunken wrecks. Perhaps the most popular activity on Coco Cay, however, is parasailing, where guests ascend to 400 feet and get a bird’s-eye view of the island.
The lines’ second island, Labadee, has seen recent enhancements, and now features seven different “neighborhoods” (Bucaneer’s Bay, Dragon’s Plaza, Labadee Town Square, Adrenaline Beach, Columbus Cove, Nellie’s Beach and the Barefoot Beach Club) that have individualized offerings. Ride a rollercoaster at Adrenaline Beach, play at the aqua park in Columbus Cove or lounge in one of 20 private cabanas at the Beach Club (an experience exclusive to guests residing in a Grand Suite or above).

The private islands offer the chance to relax and have your every need catered to. They’re a memorable way to feel like a VIP on your next cruise vacation. To find out more about private islands and the activities involved when visiting them, please contact your travel agent.

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