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Friday, August 30, 2019

Cruising to Privacy

Headed for a cruise vacation? If you envision crowded beaches, long wait times, and scheduling hassles, consider a cruise that includes a stop at a private island. Over the past several years, cruise lines have ramped up private island excursions, which allow passengers to enjoy unique attractions, pristine private beaches, and top-notch service that is “just for them”.

Cruise lines’ private islands allow passengers to live the Caribbean dream. They can enjoy perfect white-sand beaches, clear water, colorful fish, coral reefs and lush fauna — and an invitation to have fun all day! Each island has something out of the ordinary to offer cruise passengers. Below are some of the cruise lines’ private destination offerings, and what makes each distinctive.

Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line

Castaway Cay (pronounced “key”), was developed by Disney, so it’s not surprising that it’s all about family fun! Guests can choose from a wide variety of private island activities, including a kids’ 2,400-square-foot water play area, a gaming pavilion, a sports beach, and of course, Disney character greetings! The pristine beach offers sparkling water, an “adults only” area, and boat rentals, including FunCat electric catamarans.

Castaway Cay also offers intriguing snorkeling.  Two submarines from the retired 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride at the Magic Kingdom are submerged in the snorkeling area of the Family Beach. You’ll also discover statues of Minnie Mouse and Mickey Mouse underwater in this area, too!
Fun fact: Some Disney Cast Members actually live on the island year-round!

half moon cay bahamas

Half Moon Cay, Holland America Cruise Line

A slice of heaven, Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas is a stunning paradise. Crystal blue water and powdery white sand await guests at this private sanctuary. Take a horseback ride on the beach, quench your thirst at the “I Wish I Could Stay Here Forever” bar, kayak the lagoon, or let someone else drive while you enjoy a leisurely glass-bottom boat tour. There’s even a chapel for weddings and vow renewal ceremonies!

Fun fact: Half Moon Cay has won Porthole Cruise Magazine’s Best Private Island award for 17 consecutive years!

Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian Cruise Line

There’s so much to do at this stop in the Bahamas, that you might have trouble deciding! From peaceful, uncrowded, white sand beaches to heart-pounding parasailing, there’s fun for everyone. Don’t miss the stingray encounter, which garners a five-star rating from TripAdvisor. Guests can enjoy a speedboat ride to Stingray City, then enter the deep water, (an easy step from the large swim platform) and meet these fabulous critters. Even non-swimmers can enjoy the rays!

Fun fact: Great Stirrup Cay was the first cruise line private island, and was acquired way back in the 1970s!!

Princess Cays, Princess & Carnival Cruise Lines

Princess Cays, Princess & Carnival Cruise Lines

Actually, a single island located in the Bahamas, Princess Cays offers everything you’d expect from a private island with an additional layer of exclusivity- private, air-conditioned bungalows! These colorful, adults-only bungalows each feature a ceiling fan, table, and chairs inside, sun loungers outside, and an individual outdoor, open-air shower. The friendly, attentive staff is available to take drink orders.  Guests also enjoy the use of a motorized cart for transportation. When you are ready to take a dip or walk along the shoreline, just walk down the path to the beach. Not into extra privacy? Take a bike adventure along the beach to the rolling hills and see sparkling lagoons framed by mangroves, or hop on a clear-bottom kayak or dune buggy and create your own adventure!

Fun fact: Getting a chair in the shade is never an issue on Princess Cay. There are over 3,000 beach chairs on the island!

harvest cay belize cruise

Harvest Caye, Norwegian Cruise Line

It’s all about the location at Harvest Caye! The island is situated in Belize, which is known for its ecotourism. The island’s offerings include some unique experiences, such as exploring Mayan ruins, visiting a spice farm, or exploring incredible, saltwater estuaries teeming with wildlife. Guests can relax on white sands, enjoy exciting ziplining adventures, snorkel the world's second-largest barrier reef, or take an easy ride on a brand new SolarCat solar-electric catamaran!

Fun fact: The 400 staff members working on the island are locals. All the restaurants, amenities and shopping stores are also locally owned.

Labadee Royal Caribbean

Labadee, Royal Caribbean

Coasting takes on a whole new meaning at this tropical locale in Haiti. If you’ve “been there, done that” with ziplining and you’re looking for something different, Labadee offers you Dragon’s Tail Coaster, which reaches 680 feet before whooshing down a hill at 30 MPH. With 360-degree turns, as well as dips, waves, and curves, this thrill ride is sure to keep you entertained. However, if you’re less than “thrilled” at the idea of flying down the side of a steep mountain, don’t worry. You can climb the only icebergs in the Caribbean, or just kick back and relax, with the island’s signature drink— the Labadoozie!

Fun fact: Labadee is actually NOT an island. It’s located on Haiti's northern coast

coco cay royal caribbean

CocoCay, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line

Want a “Perfect Day at CocoCay”? That might mean conquering the tallest waterslide in North America! CocoCay’s waterpark boasts 13 waterslides. If you prefer your thrills on the dry side, drift “up, up, and away” 450 feet above the ground in CocoCay’s helium balloon. If your interests lie more with relaxation and libations, you won’t be disappointed. CocoCay’s Oasis Lagoon, the Caribbean's largest freshwater pool, has a massive swim-up bar and a beautiful, beachfront infinity pool. When stomach growling commences, there’s a variety of dining venues, which are included at no additional cost. Five dining venues are located throughout the island.

Fun fact: It is not uncommon to see wild chickens roaming the grounds, along with iguanas that sometimes get close to the dining areas to see if any scraps of food rolled away.

Coming Soon: Lighthouse Point, Disney Cruise Line

On the horizon, the newest private island destination– Lighthouse Point! Disney recently announced this development, and revealed that the island experience will celebrate Bahamian folklore, local artists, culture, nature, and of course, special Disney touches.

Disney will also be directly involved in conservation efforts to preserve and protect the island’s natural environment.

Construction at Lighthouse Point has not started yet but will begin after an Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management Plan are reviewed and accepted by the Government of The Bahamas. Stay tuned!

Have you visited a cruise line private island? Share your adventures below. Happy Cruising!

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