Destinations & Articles
5 Reasons the Cruise Lines’ Private Islands Are Most Favorite Port
by Cruise Compete
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, per cruise experts CruiseCompete, private islands rank “Number One” on cruisers’ to-do lists.
What makes a private island such a sought-after destination?
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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. Its glittering azure waters, unique coral reefs, and gorgeous beaches are home to some of the most unimaginably beautiful visions in the world.
Each cruise 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 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.
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.
Holland America’s Half Moon Cay has been ranked “Best Private Island” by Porthole Cruise Magazine for 16 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.
MSC Cruises is currently developing their own exclusive reserve island, Ocean Cay MSC Marnie Reserve. Located in the Bahamas, Ocean Cay will feature a 2,000-seat amphitheater, many restaurants, walking trails, bike rentals, a family beach, zip wires, and a pavilion for weddings and celebrations. There will be an exclusive spa and wellness sanctuary with private bungalows exclusively for MSC Yacht Club guests. MSC plans for Ocean Cay to open to guests in October 2018.
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. Special cruise line “Olympic” competitions are frequently held on the island for guests. In 2017, Norwegian will offer a new 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.
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 getaway, Labadee, has seen recent enhancements, and now 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. 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).
Interested in finding out more about the private island experience? CruiseCompete member-agents are amongst the most well-educated and trusted cruise specialists in the industry. For more information or assistance planning your shore excursion to a private island contact:
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