Return to Cruising: Guide to Cruise Line Private Islands
As we start to plan our first cruises following the year-long suspension of sailing, one of the questions most on our minds is - Where exactly can we cruise to first? For voyages on mainstream lines sailing around the Caribbean or from the East coast, it’s likely the cruise itinerary will include a stop at the cruise line’s private island. Across the board, these islands have been designed around creating a perfect experience for the cruise guest. You will find it all on a cruise line private island - pristine beaches complete with turquoise waters and soft white sand, thrilling activities for kids and teens, relaxation areas for adults, and more.
As cruise lines navigate the new post COVID-19 world of travel, a stop at a private island is a great option as it allows the line to control certain elements of what guests will experience when they get off the ship. As the islands are their own, they can maintain that their health and safety protocols are at the forefront of how the destinations operate.
We’ve rounded up a guide on what cruise lines will be sailing to private islands, and what you can expect if your sailing includes a stop at one of these highly-rated destinations.
Castaway Cay (Bahamas) - Disney Cruise Line
About the Island:
Disney Cruises’ private island was designed for travelers of all ages, offering separate beaches for adults and families. Available exclusively to Disney Cruise Line guests only, most of the line’s Bahamian and Caribbean itineraries include a stop here.
While in port at Castaway Cay you can expect to find sprawling beaches, sparkling lagoons, splash-worthy water play areas for all ages, scenic walking trails, and open-air BBQ dining locations serving complimentary meals. Adults (over 18) can head to the exclusive Serenity Bay where they will find an oasis complete with open-air cabana massages and specialty frozen cocktails. Kids will love cooling off at the ‘Spring-A-Leak’, a 2,400-square-foot water play area. Of course, no Disney Cruise Line destination experience would be complete without special character meet and greets. Throughout the day, guests will find Disney Characters stationed at the Post Office, Gazebo, gangway and other locations throughout the island.
Planning a cruise with a stop at Castaway Cay? We recommend renting a private cabana for the day. This option is perfect for families looking to spread out and enjoy some fun in the sun.
What Cruises Will Stop at Castaway Cay When Cruising Resumes?
As of now, Disney Cruise Line is slated to resume cruise operations in North America beginning in July 2021. When operations return, it's likely that most Caribbean itineraries will make a stop at Castaway Cay. Ships currently slated to stop in Castaway Cay in 2021 include: Disney Magic, Disney Fantasy, and Disney Dream.
Great Stirrup Cay (Bahamas) - Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas
About the Island:
Great Stirrup Cay is a four-mile island in the Bahamas that is exclusive to Norwegian Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas, and Oceania guests. On the island, you will find numerous restaurants and bars and over 1,500 feet of white sand beaches. Looking for adventure? Activities include snorkeling, stand-up paddleboard, kayaking, parasailing, wave runner rentals, volleyball courts and more. Unwind at Silver Cove, the island’s newest area featuring a private villa area. Each Villa offers A/C, a TV with complimentary on-demand movies, access to the upscale Silver Cove buffet, a full private restroom, a retractable glass wall providing unobstructed views, and access to the beach.
A featured, once-in-a-lifetime shore excursion on Great Stirrup Cay is the opportunity to swim with the pigs of Treasure Island. This unique and popular experience includes round-trip transportation to the island and guided interaction with these playful swimming pigs. (Additional Cost)
What Cruises Will Stop at Great Stirrup Cay When Cruising Resumes?
Norwegian Cruise Line’s current roster of cruises in North America includes sailings that stop at Great Stirrup Cay beginning in September 2021. Ships slated to stop at Great Stirrup Cay in 2021 from NCL include: Norwegian Sky, Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Encore, and Norwegian Gem. Oceania’s Riviera and Sirena are also slated to make one-day stops to the island this year. The Seven Seas Splendor (Regent Seven Seas) is also slated to make a day stop in Great Stirrup Cay this December.
Perfect Day at CocoCay (Bahamas) - Royal Caribbean
About the Island:
Royal Caribbean’s private island Perfect Day at CocoCay is jam-packed with so many activities and adventures that you will have a hard time deciding what to do first! The island’s amenities went through a rehaul in 2019, so most of the activities you will find are relatively new.
Those looking to spend some time relaxing on the beach can head to the pristine white sands of Chill Island, or one of the numerous cabanas available to rent on South Beach. Kids and adults of all ages are guaranteed to find excitement at the Thrill Waterpark. This area is home to Daredevil’s Peak, the tallest waterslide in North America. Want to see the island from above? The Up, Up, and Away balloon ride will bring you 450 feet above the ground! You can also soar above the ground on the Zip Line, an exhilarating ride spanning 1,600 feet across the island.
One of the newest additions to Perfect Day at CocoCay is the exclusive Coco Beach Club on the far side of the island. Beach chairs and umbrellas are included in the club’s admissions charge, as well as complimentary dining at its upscale restaurant, The Grille at Coco Beach Club. Want to go all out? Consider renting one of the club’s overwater cabanas, each featuring a hammock, shower, and slide into the sea.
What Cruises Will Stop at Perfect Day at CocoCay When Cruising Resumes?
The first cruises slated to go to Perfect Day at CocoCay when Royal Caribbean’s operations resume in North America include sailings on Adventure of the Seas which depart from Nassau this June. Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas cruises from Bermuda are also confirmed to make a fun-filled one-day stop on the island.
Oasis of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, and Brilliance of the Seas are also all currently slated to sail to Perfect Day at CocoCay during various Fall and Winter voyages in 2021.
Half Moon Cay (Bahamas) - Carnival Cruise Line and Holland America Line
About the Island:
Beautiful Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas is the private island for Carnival and Holland America Line. During your visit to the island, you can choose to relax, seek out adventure, or enjoy a little bit of both.
Activities you can take part in while on Half Moon Cay include kayaking, bike tours, horseback riding by the sea, snorkeling, swimming with stingrays, jet ski rentals, nature hikes, and lagoon tours. Looking to chill out? Rent a cabana or your own private villa for the day and book a relaxing outdoor massage on the beach. Or take a quick nap in one of the numerous hammocks you will find scattered around the island.
What Cruises Will Stop at Half Moon Cay When Cruising Resumes?
Half Moon Cay is a popular stop on many Bahamas itineraries from Carnival’s East coast ports (Baltimore, Charleston, New York, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Port Canaveral, Port Everglades, and Miami). Ships including Carnival Pride, Carnival Sunshine, Carnival Sunrise, Carnival Conquest, Carnival Freedom, Carnival Dream, Carnival Magic, and Carnival Legend are among some of the vessels scheduled to sail to Half Moon Cay in 2021.
Nieuw Amsterdam, Eurodam, Rotterdam, Zaandam, Nieuw Statendam are among the confirmed Holland America ships that will port in Half Moon Cay in 2021.
Harvest Caye (Belize) - Norwegian Cruise Line
About the Island:
Harvest Caye, a private island for Norwegian Cruise Line, is a 75-acre oasis in Belize. Highlights of the port include an expansive pool area with a swim-up bar, beachside cabanas that accommodate up to 6 guests, and a saltwater lagoon that’s perfect for kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and riding on electric float boats.
Thrill junkies will love the Flighthouse Zipline, a thrilling 136-foot high venue for aerial activities, including 3,000 feet of zip lining across the island and an observation deck with mainland views. If you prefer to stay on the ground, Norwegian offers a special excursion that will take you to snorkel the world’s second-largest barrier reef in Belize,
What Cruises Will Stop at Harvest Caye When Cruising Resumes?
August 2021 sailings on the Norwegian Joy are confirmed to make a one-day visit to Harvest Caye. For 2022, most Western Caribbean itineraries will call on Harvest Caye.
Labadee (Haiti) - Royal Caribbean
About the Island:
Just like Perfect Day at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s other private island, Labadee, offers no shortage of fun activities. You will find stops in Labadee on many of Royal’s Western and Eastern Caribbean itineraries. If your next cruise includes a stop to this island, prepare for a day of relaxation and adventure set in a tropical paradise filled with picture-perfect beaches and rolling jungles.
Labadee is home to the Dragon's Breath Flight LineSM, the world’s longest zip line over water, which soars 500 feet over the ground. You can also take in the island views from the Dragon’s Tail Chaser, a roller coaster that races across the island at speeds up to 30 miles per hour.
Looking to kick back and relax near the ocean? Enjoy the island’s signature drink, the Labadoozie, from your own private beach bungalow overlooking stunning Nellie’s Beach.
What Cruises Will Stop at Labadee When Cruising Resumes?
Labadee is a port stop in many Western and Eastern Caribbean routes on Royal Caribbean. Ships slated to stop at the island in 2021 include: Symphony of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Odyssey of the Seas, Vision of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas, and Harmony of the Seas.
Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve (Bahamas) - MSC Cruises
About the Island:
Brand new, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve had just opened to passengers on MSC a few months prior to the pandemic. The initial reviews confirmed this private island was unlike any other with its emphasis on the environment and education all the while allowing guests to soak in the natural beauty and relax.
Ocean Cay from the time of concept until opening has been dedicated to ecological principles that shaped how the island operates, the activities offered as well as the overall operation. This private ecological oasis features 8 world-class beaches, abundant sea life for snorkeling, massage huts on the beach, authentic Bahamian cuisine, tropical cocktails, and a Bahamian shopping village. A unique feature is a lighthouse to take in the sweeping 360-degree views of the island. Ocean Cay also offers morning yoga, nighttime glow paddle boarding, kayaking, beachside stargazing, and much more.
What Cruises Will Stop at Ocean Cay When Cruising Resumes?
Many Bahamas, Western and Eastern Caribbean itineraries on MSC include a stop at the new Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve. Ships slated to port at the island in 2021 include: MSC Meraviglia, MSC Divina, MSC Armonia, and MSC Seashore.
Princess Cays (Eleuthera, Bahamas) - Princess Cruises and Carnival Cruise Line
About the Island:
Princess Cays is an exclusive port of call for Princess Cruises and Carnival guests on the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas. The private resort for Princess sits on over 40 acres featuring half a mile of white sandy shoreline at the southernmost tip of Eleuthera.
The resort boasts outstanding amenities while carefully preserving this natural paradise. Looking to relax on the beach? Rent a ‘made for two’ beach clamshell offering two seas right by the shore. For those looking to splurge, the island offers private cabanas complete with private transportation and air conditioning.
Water sports are big on Princess Cays. Some of the featured activities guests can take part in include banana boat rides, fishing, kayaking, windsurfing, floats, paddle wheelers, snorkeling, and more.
What Cruises Will Stop at Princess Cays When Cruising Resumes?
Princess Cruises ships slated to make a stop at Princess Cays when sailing resume in 2021 include Caribbean routes on the Enchanted Princess, Caribbean Princess, Sky Princess, and Regal Princess.
The Carnival Sunshine, Carnival Ecstasy, Carnival Pride, Carnival Elation, Carnival Liberty, Carnival Freedom are among the Carnival Cruise Line ships slated to make a stop on Princess Cays in 2021.
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Have you ever visited a cruise line private island?