One of the greatest indicators of luxury is exclusivity, and most vacationers long for an experience that is set apart from all others. A visit to a private island certainly fits the bill. In fact, according to cruise experts CruiseCompete, the cruise lines’ private islands are the #1 port of call for their consumers. What makes these private island experiences so special, and what are the amenities of each?
Here’s a rundown of some of the private island ports of call by cruise line:
Costa Cruises – Catalina Island
Costa Cruises guests visit Catalina Island, off the coast of the Dominican Republic. It features activities such as volleyball, beach Olympics, snorkeling, and massages on the beach. Cruise passengers can also rent jet skis, go for banana-boat rides, or relax on a long beach edged with palm trees. Music and barbecues complete an idyllic day and, for the tourist-minded, visitors can purchase jewelry, beachwear, and other souvenirs.
On Catalina Island, there is a private beach exclusively reserved for Costa Cruise passengers that can only be reached by rowing boat because engines and noise are banned. What an oasis!
During the stop on Catalina Island, you’ll discover an authentic treasure in its nature. The importation of motor vehicles is forbidden and it feels as though you have escaped from the city. The island also, and inevitably, surprises you with the variety of its ecosystem: among the imported species like the bison and native ones of extraordinary beauty, you’ll feel as though you have landed in a veritable garden of Eden. The island will enchant you. It’s extremely popular with divers for its barrier reef and you can also relax on the private Costa beach.
Not to be missed:
- Relax on a catamaran
- Excursion to the village “Altos de Chavon”
- Boat excursions to the river Chavon
Disney Cruise Line – Castaway Cay
Disney’s Castaway Cay provides plenty of magic and fun for people of all ages. The three-mile-long island, of which only ten percent has been developed, provides plenty of opportunities for guests to enjoy its natural beauty. The island caters to guests in true Disney style. This is one of the only private islands featuring cruise ship docking capabilities (as opposed to shuttle boats between the ship and the island). This allows guests to come and go as they please. Attractions include the Castaway Family Beach, Serenity Bay (for adults), Teen Beach and Scuttle’s Cove (for kids), plus numerous water sports, snorkeling, and water tour excursions.
Castaway Cay invites cruisers to enjoy balmy tropical weather and world-class recreation on a Bahamian oasis with signature Disney hospitality. After disembarking on Castaway Cay, you can obtain beach towels and use your convenient Key to the World cards for retail transactions on the island. Everything needed for the perfect beach getaway is here—from lounge chairs and beach umbrellas to tasty food and family-friendly entertainment.
Disney Cruise Line does its part to preserve this pristine island with clear turquoise waters, white-sand beaches and swaying palm trees. Castaway Cay researchers are restoring the health of coral reefs by transplanting long-spined sea urchins and fostering their growth. Disney Cruise Line Crew Members help protect and monitor endangered loggerhead sea turtle nests on Castaway Cay.
Solar panels in backstage areas of Castaway Cay are used to fuel water heaters for bathing, dishwashing and laundry for Crew Members living on the island. Additionally, Disney Cruise Line recycles 7,000 pounds of used cooking oil each week to power a fleet of Bahamas Waste Management vehicles in Nassau.
Things to See and Do
- Castaway Cay visitors find an island completely outfitted for premium family leisure. Ample amenities include sprawling beaches, sparkling lagoons teeming with curious sea life, splash-worthy water play areas, scenic walking trails, open-air BBQ dining locations serving complimentary meals, 2 shops featuring Castaway Cay gifts and souvenirs, free tram transportation around the island and more.
- Castaway Family Beach – Find your place in the sun at this gorgeous beach set aside especially for family fun. Have a blast sailing, paddling a kayak, or swimming and snorkeling in the blue lagoon. With your family in mind, we’ve laid out a feast at Cookie’s BBQ. You can also take advantage of a host of good-time activities, from lively music and dancing at the Gazebo to tetherball, volleyball and soccer at the Sports Beach. Children can even engage in an array of supervised games at the fanciful In Da Shade Game Pavilion!
- Snorkeling Lagoon – Snorkelers of all skill levels will be enchanted by the undersea realm of marine life off Castaway Family Beach. Novices can follow the Discover Trail, while more experienced snorkelers may wish to tackle the Explorer Trail. Keep an eye out for the hidden Mickey!
- Serenity Bay – Escape to this secluded, adults-only oasis reserved exclusively for adults 18 years of age and over. There, you can unwind in the heart of serenity, treating yourself to such offerings as an open-air cabana massage under the swaying palm trees, or frozen specialty drinks at the Castaway Air Bar. Air Bar BBQ has hearty fare and savory dishes to satisfy your appetite when hunger strikes.
- Pelican Plunge – This 2,400-square-foot floating platform—adorned with nautical Flotsam and Jetsam. At this water-play area and platform, which celebrates the island’s native pelicans, take a ride on one of the 2 twisting water slides that carry you into the refreshing lagoon.
- Teen Hideout – Teen Hideout is just what it’s named for: a place where teens 14 to17 years of age can lounge—carefree—in their very own slice of paradise.
- In Da Shade Game Pavilion – Take a break from the sun to play games, such as table tennis, foosball, billiards and basketball, inside this shaded structure, centrally located near Castaway Family Beach.
- Sports Beach – Meet at the Sports Beach for beloved beach pastimes, including volleyball and tetherball.
- Character Appearances – Throughout the day, delight in sightings of some of your favorite Disney Characters throughout Disney Castaway Cay. These are perfect moments for photo-snapping!
- Castaway Cay 5K – Go the distance in paradise when you take off on a spectacular 5K around Disney Castaway Cay. Make your way past swaying palms as you run or walk along the air strip to the observation tower and take the lead past sweeping shorelines to the finish line. All finishers receive an exclusive Disney Castaway Cay 5K medal. For an additional charge, a Premium Package option is also available for purchase before you set sail, where participants receive a Disney Castaway Cay 5K cinch sack, water bottle and hat. This event is open to Guests 10 years of age and older.
- Boat Rentals – Set sail in the boat of your choice and embark on a breezy excursion atop the crystal-blue waters of Castaway Cay. Choose a sleek 1-person sea kayak, a charming 4-person paddleboat, a fun 2-person aqua trike or an active stand-up paddleboard for your water adventure!
- Shopping – Check out exclusive beachwear, hats, souvenirs and collectible pins with the Disney Castaway Cay logo—all on sale at She Sells Sea Shells…and Everything Else!
- Olaf’s Summertime Freeze – This wintry watering hole features specialty frozen drinks in souvenir cups. Visit Olaf’s Summertime Freeze near the Pelican Point tram stop, by Castaway Cay Family Beach.
- Gil’s Fins and Boats – Rent snorkel gear for all family members, along with kayaks, paddleboats, aqua trikes and other water equipment for your day as a marine adventurer.
- Flippers & Floats – Rent inner tubes, snorkel masks and fins from this festive location.
Holland America Line – Half Moon Cay
Half Moon Cay has been ranked “Best Private Island” by Porthole Cruise Magazine for 17 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. The new Lobster Shack will offer Caribbean dining and drinks. Other features include private beachside cabanas with private butler service, showers and misters and eco-tours by glass-bottom boat.
All Bahama Islands are full of tropical wonders and sun-kissed beaches. But Half Moon Cay, Holland America Line’s private island in the Bahamas is an absolute stunner. We’re not the only ones enamored with our crescent-shaped slice of heaven—Half Moon Cay is the highest-rated Bahamas private island. It has won Porthole Cruise Magazine’s Best Private Island award consecutively for 20 years and garnered the best in Travel Weekly’s Readers’ Choice Awards. When you feel the sugar-white sand on your toes or see its brilliant blue lagoon, you’ll understand why cruise travelers love Half Moon Cay. True bucket-list excursions, secluded cabanas, and stunning beaches make it ideal for any type of vacation.
Top 3 Things To See In Half Moon Cay
- Horseback Riding – Explore Half Moon Cay from astride one of the island’s horses.
- Kayaking – A kayak is an ideal way to explore Half Moon Cay’s lagoon and learn about the island’s mangroves and bird species.
- Nature Walk – A hike to Half Moon Cay’s ridge provides views of the island and chances to spot the various birds that call it home.
Things To Do In Half Moon Cay, Bahamas
From thrilling adventure to secluded relaxation, Half Moon Cay has it all. Book Half Moon Cay Shore Excursions.
- A range of water activities including snorkeling, kayaks, catamarans, paddleboards, and more
- Horseback riding on the beach and in the surf (a Half Moon Cay exclusive)
- Private, two-story villas and beachside cabanas
- A stingray adventure where you can interact with these silky creatures in their natural environs
- The Tropics Restaurant with shaded dining pavilions for a barbecue lunch
- Fresh-grilled lobster served Caribbean style at the Lobster Shack
- Quench your thirst at Captain Morgan on the Rocks, the “I Wish I Could Stay Here Forever” bar, and several more beachside watering holes
- Kid- and family-friendly activities, including a children’s water park
- A chapel for weddings or renewal of vows (a Half Moon Cay exclusive)
Featured Shore Excursions
- Snorkel By Boat
- Historic Nature Walk
- Eco Lagoon Kayak Adventure
- Glass-Bottom Boat
- Eco Lagoon Cruise
MSC Cruises – Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve
MSC Cruises has developed Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve. Located in the Bahamas, Ocean Cay offers 8 beaches, a lagoon, and a variety of aquatic sport activities. The Ocean Cay Yacht Club beach and facilities is for Yacht Club guests. Spa services are offered in sea view cabanas.
Exclusive to MSC Cruises guests, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve offers guests over 2 miles of white sand beaches to spread out and relax beside crystal blue water, and activities for all ages day and night.
With docking right on the island, you can walk straight off the ship to one of the island’s multiple beaches where chairs, umbrellas and cabanas await. Spend the day snorkeling, paddle boarding, jet skiing and more, or for wellness and relaxation, visit The Spa at Ocean Cay offering beachside massages. Grab a snack or refresh with an Instagram-worthy beverage at food trucks and beach bars throughout the island. With late night — or overnight — stays on many cruises, you’ll get to spend a full day, or two, on our stunning island. Melt into the sunset with a beach picnic, fire pits or a glow paddle boarding experience in our lagoon. Then, watch as The Lighthouse shines with a spectacular light show.
What’s more? Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve was designed to show our appreciation to the environment and ensure we are doing our part to take care of our planet, all while giving you a slice of paradise.
It’s no wonder Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve has been named Best New Cruise Destination! All MSC Cruises’ itineraries departing from the U.S. include a stop at Ocean Cay so plan your escape to The Bahamas or Caribbean today.
- Well-known for its pristine beaches, Ocean Cay offers multiple beaches to choose from.
- North and South Beach are situated perfectly on each side of the lagoon providing calm waters for swimming, relaxing on a beach float or sitting shoreline as the calm waters reach your toes.
- Bimini Beach offers endless views of the Atlantic Ocean. Feeling luxurious? Rent one of our private cabanas on the beach for the day!
- Sunset Beach is famous for offering stunning views (hence the name) but is also one of the largest beaches on the island, offering over half a mile long of white sand.
- Lighthouse Bay is the closest beach to the ship offering plenty of chairs, umbrellas and sun beds to soak up the Bahamian sun.
- Paradise Sands Beach, where The Spa at Ocean Cay is located, allows guests to enjoy a massage beachside. After your massage, enjoy this quaint and quiet beach overlooking the beautiful turquoise waters.
- Ocean House Beach is exclusive only for MSC Yacht Club guests. Just like while you are onboard the ship, Ocean House Beach offers an upscale experience with complimentary private amenities including a restaurant and bar, butler service and more. Beachfront or Ocean View cabanas are available to rent.
It’s not every day you get to enjoy a full day, or two, on a private island.
Daytime activities & excursions:
- Ocean Cay is home to some of the most colorful fish, so you’ll want to make sure you spend time in the lagoon or ocean snorkeling with these beautiful sea creatures or relax on a floating mat while tropical fish swim all around you.
- For those seeking a more thrilling experience, take a journey through the Bahamian waters on a jet ski tour or our Rum Rendezvous catamaran cruise.
Evening activities & excursions:
- Unique to MSC Cruises, here you can experience glow paddle boarding in our lagoon and watch as the lights attract small tropical fish all around you.
- Perhaps, you’d rather take in the beautiful night sky with beachside stargazing, relax with your family or loved ones at a sunset picnic. If a beach fire is more your style, you can enjoy fire pits located on select beaches.
Food & Drinks
- Stay hydrated and refreshed with one of many beach bars and food trucks, situated perfectly throughout the island so you don’t have to venture too far or wait in long lines. Enjoy Caribbean cuisine, tropical cocktails and Instagram-worthy experiences to make all your family and friends jealous.
- The Smiling Fish offers soft serve ice-cream and coffee delicacies.
- Springer’s Bar is an authentic Bahamian bar offering delicious cocktails and drinks
- Lighthouse Bar is known for its striking 100 ft. lighthouse, along with its spectacular lighthouse in the evenings.
- Seakers Food Court offers guests a variety of American and Caribbean cuisine, something for everyone!
- Food Trucks is one of our most talked about food experiences on island and offers delicious cuisine. Each food truck is situated perfectly next to a beach bar, where you can grab a drink and food and go!
Norwegian Cruise Line – Great Stirrup Cay & Harvest Caye
Travelers set foot on Great Stirrup Cay, located 120 nautical miles east of Fort Lauderdale in the Berry Island chain of the Bahamas. There are two maintained beaches on the island, plus several other, more isolated ones. Visitors enjoy native animal and marine life at every turn. Water sports include snorkeling, paddle boats, sailboats, kayaks, and parasailing. Special cruise line “Olympic” competitions are frequently held on the island for guests. Norwegian also has lagoon retreat with a pristine beach, new dining options, beach villas, and a family beach area.
[Norwegian Cruise Line also stops at Harvest Caye in Southern Belize. The 75-acre island features a pool, a water sports lagoon, a 7-acre beach with private cabanas, shopping, as well as activities such as zip lining and snorkeling.]
Great Stirrup Cay
Welcome to Great Stirrup Cay, an idyllic private island paradise exclusive to Norwegian guests. Unwind on white-sand beaches and enjoy the many ways to explore paradise. Snorkel with sea turtles and colorful fish in warm turquoise waters. Peacefully glide along the coastline in a kayak, or soar high into the sky as you zipline across the island. Craft your own delicious taco at the complimentary Abaco Taco, while sipping on a refreshing drink. Do it all – or nothing at all – the choice is yours.
- Get the best views of the Cay on a zipline ride
- Simply take in the views
- Drive your Wave Runner past the neighboring Berry Islands
- Soar above paradise
- Relax in your own cabana
- Take a Kayak Tour
- Make new friends in Stringray Encounter
- Our overwater swings make for the perfect photo op
- Make lifelong memories at Great Stirrup Cay
- Relax on the beach
- Enjoy a day at the beach
- Become one with the sea on our floating mats
- Fate Of The Fancy Snorkel Adventure
- Grab a cool drink in the Bacardi Bar
- Paddle board in crystal clear waters.
- Take Relaxation to the Next Level at
- Silver Cove
With the incredible expansion of Great Stirrup Cay, you will be able to take relaxing to another level. Unwind at an exclusive, private retreat at Silver Cove where your luxurious villa awaits. Each Villa offers A/C, in villa TV with complimentary on-demand movies, access to the upscale Silver Cove buffet, full private restroom, a retractable glass wall providing unobstructed views and access to the beach.
Featured Shore Excursion
Swimming With Pigs In The Bahamas – Located just a short 10-minute scenic boat ride from Great Stirrup Cay, are the Swimming Pigs of Treasure Island. This unique and popular experience is offered as a shore excursion that includes round-trip transportation to the island and interaction with these playful swimming pigs. Not to be missed!
What Is Great Stirrup Cay?
Located in the Berry Islands, a chain of islands in the Bahamas, Great Stirrup Cay is one of Norwegian’s most sought-after private-island escapes. As one of the first ventures of its kind in the cruise industry, Norwegian purchased the island in the 1970s and spared no expense developing the more than 250-acre piece of paradise into the ultimate vacation destination.
On top of that, the cruise line recently invested about $250 million to renovate, expand and enhance the island’s amenities, including the addition of a private lagoon and villas. With no permanent residents on the island or any other cruise lines allowed to dock at the island, Great Stirrup Cay offers a one-of-a-kind, exclusive experience designed with you in mind. What more can you ask for?
Things To Do on Great Stirrup Cay
Lounge & Relax
If we’re completely honest, lounging around is one of the best things to do on Great Stirrup Cay. Grab a beach towel, pull up a chair, and settle in for a day of sun and sand. For complete privacy, reserve one of the luxurious villas at Silver Cove and take relaxation to the next level. Each villa features complimentary on-demand movies, access to an upscale buffet, your own restroom, air conditioning, and a retractable glass wall with unobstructed views of the beach.
Have an Adventure
Looking for something a little more adventurous? How does swimming with pigs sound to you? Your Norwegian excursion begins with a 10-minute boat ride to nearby Treasure Island where you’ll receive a few quick tips about the best ways to interact with the pigs before hopping in the water for the experience of a lifetime. Other fun activities on the island include zip lining, parasailing, snorkeling, and WaveRunner tours.
Enjoy Bites & Beverages
Do you fancy yourself a foodie? Eating your way around the island is another amazing way to spend your time at Great Stirrup Cay. Build your own taco at Abaco Taco, or grab a bite at the new 8,500-square-foot beach buffet that serves up burgers, hot dogs, pizza, salads, chicken, fruits, and so much more.
Princess Cruise Line – Princess Cays
Princess Cays is located on the southern portion of Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas, featuring white sand beaches and turquoise waters great for snorkeling. Island activities include seaboards, aqua bikes, Hobie Cat and Sunfish sailboats, paddle wheelers, banana boats, and transparent-hull kayaks at the water sports pier. Enjoy a beach barbeque, at which a full staff of drink servers is ready with cocktails and soda. For those who just want to relax, there are plenty of beach umbrellas, tiki huts, and hammocks slung between shady trees.
At Princess Cruises’ exclusive port of call, Princess Cays, you’ll enjoy a private beach party on the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas. One hundred miles long and only two miles wide, Eleuthera offers unspoiled beaches. The Princess private resort at Princess Cays is situated on more than 40 acres and features over a half-mile of white-sand shoreline, all at the southern tip of the island. The resort boasts outstanding amenities while carefully preserving this natural paradise. Take in the views from the observation tower. Enjoy a complimentary beach barbecue. Sip a cool drink or browse the shops and the local craft market. All of Princess Cays’ facilities are linked by walkways. Recreational activities abound. Enjoy volleyball and a full range of water sports, or simply relax on the beach.
Points of Interest
- Rock Sound
- Private & Sanctuary Bungalows
- Outdoor Adventure
- Beach Clamshell
- Banana Boat Ride
- Water Sports Rental Activities
More About Princess Cays, Bahamas, Points Of Interest
- Rock Sound – The town is known for its pristine beaches, sparkling blue water, spectacular views and colorful island buildings. Rock Sound is also famous for pirates, bats and a bottomless ocean hole.
- Private & Sanctuary Bungalows – Luxuriate shoreside in your own air-conditioned bungalow. Perfect for a romantic hideaway or family fun, each brightly colored bungalow is near the beach. A tram for transportation is provided to and from the bungalows.
- Snorkeling – Explore the underwater paradise hidden within the unspoiled waters of the Bahamas.
- Outdoor Adventure – Travel along scenic back roads of Eleuthera Island on a Dune Buggy Adventure down to a pink-sand beach. Or explore the walking trails, display gardens and native habitat of the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve.
- Beach Clamshell – Escape completely in your own private retreat – a “made-just-for-the-two-of-you” beach clamshell. Relax on the sandy shore and take in the island’s natural beauty while lazing on your own comfortable beach chair.
- Banana Boat Ride – Climb onto the neon yellow banana boat and hang on! After the powerboat pulls away from shore at full throttle, you’ll find yourself suddenly zooming along the surface on a wet and wild thrill ride!
- Fishing – There are plenty of fish in the sea. Try your luck at surf fishing off a rocky shore of Princess Cays.
- Water Sports Rental Activities – Slather on the sunscreen and immerse yourself in any number of activities that take you in and out of the water. Enjoy a day with kayaking, windsurfing, snorkeling, paddle wheelers, floats, aqua chairs or a Hobie Wave.
Royal Caribbean – CocoCay
Located in the middle of the Caribbean is the secluded 140-acre private island of CocoCay, reserved exclusively for Royal Caribbean and Celebrity guests. The tropical paradise was recently updated with new aquatic facilities, nature trails, and numerous places to relax. A favorite attraction is the new 20,000-square-foot Caylana’s Castle Cove, a fun-filled floating aqua playground. Other popular activities include SeaTrek adventure wave runners, snorkeling, and parasailing 400 feet above CocoCay.
What is Perfect Day at CocoCay?
- CocoCay is Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas, which means only Royal Caribbean cruise ships can go there.
- Just like any port your cruise ship will visit, your ship docks there and it is up to you if you want to get off and visit.
- There is no cost to walk around and explore the island, and much of the offerings are complimentary, such as the beaches, pool, and food.
- Basically, the island is one enormous shore excursion run by Royal Caribbean that you do not have to spend any extra money (although you certainly can in some cases) to enjoy a fun day at the beach.
What’s new at Perfect Day at CocoCay?
You might be wondering what is the difference between Perfect Day at CocoCay and the “old” CocoCay, if you happened to visit that in years’ past.
In 2019, Royal Caribbean expanded and refurbished the entire island. To say there’s a lot more to do now would be an understatement.
Guests can now choose among a great variety of activities, including:
- Multiple beaches
- Water park (extra admission cost)
- Freshwater pool
- Zip line (extra admission cost)
- Private beach club (extra admission cost)
- Various dining options (nearly all included)
In short, there are many more choices of how to spend your day.
What should you bring?
Since Royal Caribbean operates the island, there is a bit less to have to bring than to a regular cruise port.
The most important things you should bring to the CocoCay are:
- SeaPass card
- Cash: The artisan market only takes cash. Tipping cabana attendants also requires cash.
- Closed-toe shoes: If you are going on the zip line, these will be needed.
- Beach towels: You can get these from the ship. If you are in a cabana or Coco Beach Club, towels are provided for you.
For more information and to book a cruise to any of these or other cruise line private island, please see more here:
Check out All Things Cruise, our ultimate source for cruise lovers ~
Interested in a land-tour, possibly all-inclusive? Try our VacationCompete site, where trusted vacation specialists compete to offer the best deals!
We reserve the right to correct any errors or omissions. Thank you.