Nothing says luxury quite like an exclusive experience, and with their pristine beaches, aquamarine waters and a variety of adventures both in the water and on the shore, a visit to a cruise line’s private island certainly qualifies. In fact, private islands rank “Number One” on cruisers’ to-do lists.
What makes a private island such a sought-after destination?
- If there is a paradise on Earth, this must be it. You’ll leave with a better appreciation of the majesty of our world, as the Caribbean islands offer visually stunning locales with abundant native wildlife. Their glittering azure waters, unique coral reefs, and gorgeous beaches are home to some of the most unimaginably beautiful visions in the world.
- Live like royalty on an island like Holland America’s Half Moon Cay, where the staff caters to your every whim. For a fee, cruise passengers can reserve a private cabana (which includes an outdoor freshwater shower/misting station and indoor dining room and changing area). During your visit, you will be attended to by private butlers; they fill beverage glasses, prepare hot and chilled appetizers, and even offer cool cucumbers to soothe eyes against the hot, tropical sun. A taste of the finer things in life.
- The makings of an epic travel story are here… the mystique of the Caribbean, the beauty and luxury of the island, and the adventures you’ll have combine for the story of a lifetime. Be sure to journal about the experience and take plenty of pictures… the better to share with others through storytelling and social media.
- A private island offers a unique opportunity for relaxation; one that completely sweeps you away from the pressures of everyday life. Say goodbye to routines and obligations, and hello to cold drinks, beach umbrellas, cabanas and shady spots to relax.
- Ramp up the adrenaline with a multitude of exciting activities, including aerial adventures, island explorations, and water sports. Tour the island via jeep, snorkel with stingrays, or take a kayak lagoon tour; go parasailing, compete in beach Olympics or enjoy the floating aqua playground… the options for energetic explorers abound, and families are more than welcome, with plenty to do for all ages.
These cruise lines offer private islands for their cruise travelers:
- Carnival Cruises – Amber Cove (Dominican Republic)
- Costa Cruises – Catalina Island (Dominican Republic)
- Disney Cruise Line – Castaway Cay (Bahamas)
- Holland America Line – Half Moon Cay (Bahamas)
- MSC Cruises – Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve (Bahamas)
- Norwegian Cruise Line – Great Stirrup Cay (Bahamas)
- Princess Cruises – Princess Cays (Bahamas)
- Royal Caribbean International – CocoCay or Little Stirrup Cay (Bahamas)
- Royal Caribbean International – Labadee (Hispaniola)
Following is a roundup of information on cruise line private islands and what they offer:
Carnival Cruise Line – Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic is known for its remarkable local amber, the clearest you’ll find anywhere in the world. Whether you’re looking for a day at the beach, some Dominican Republic adventure or just a little poolside me-time, Amber Cove is just the ticket. Explore Fort San Felipe, originally built to ward off pirates, which today welcomes curious travelers of all kinds. Take a ride on the wild side on an amazing ATV Adventure tour through the undiscovered Dominican Republic back country! Swim with dolphins, stingrays, even sharks, at Ocean World.
Costa Cruises – Costa Cruises guests visit Catalina Island, off the coast of the Dominican Republic. Costa has a private beach exclusively for the use of their passengers. 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.
Disney Cruise Line – 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.
Holland America Line – Holland America’s Half Moon Cay has been ranked “Best Private Island” by Porthole Cruise Magazine 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, including a children’s aqua park and a buoyed personal watercraft course. The Lobster Shack offers Caribbean dining and drinks. Other features include private beachside cabanas with private butler service, showers and misters and eco-tours by glass-bottom boat.
MSC Cruises – MSC Cruises has developed Ocean Cay MSC Marnie Reserve. Located in the Bahamas, Ocean Cay offers 6 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.
Norwegian Cruise Line – 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. There is a great lagoon retreat with a pristine beach, 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.
Princess Cruise Line – 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.
Royal Caribbean– Located in the middle of the Caribbean is the secluded 140-acre private island of Coco Cay, reserved exclusively for Royal Caribbean 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 Coco Cay. The sandy beach and coral reefs of Labadee, their second private island, are also wonderful places to relax and have fun. Activities include kayaking, snorkeling, parasailing, and bike riding. Become a pirate for a day, ride a waverunner, or just lie on the beach and relax.
On Coco Cay, you’ll find the Thrill Waterpark featuring over 13 slides, including the 135-foot-tall Daredevil’s Peak, the tallest waterslide in North America. Also check out the Oasis Lagoon fresh water pool, 1,600-foot zip line, Up, Up and Away helium balloon ride, and 2 new beaches. Coco Beach Club is an upscale option with overwater cabanas.
Labadee features seven different “neighborhoods” (Buccaneer’s Bay, Dragon’s Plaza, Labadee Town Square, Adrenaline Beach, Columbus Cove, Nellie’s Beach and the Barefoot Beach Club) that have individualized offerings. 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).