Tips for Visiting a Cruise Line Private Island

Top member tips for visiting a cruise line's private island - Photo by Members milton, Zambi, and Delmark

Are you planning a Caribbean cruise? As you peruse and consider the numerous itineraries out there for voyages in this region, and if you are traveling with a mainstream cruise line, it's likely you are bound to see a stop at that line’s own private island. Get excited - you are in for a treat! 

These private destinations are tailored by the cruise lines to provide a curated, hassle-free day for guests to do as much (or as little) as they wish to do during their visit. The majority of these islands are located in the Bahamas, with two destinations as the exception. You can expect pristine white sandy beaches, an abundance of water and nature-focused adventures, as well as a number of activities and amenities that extend the cruise ship experience out on land. 

As cruise lines navigate the new post COVID-19 world of travel, you are more likely to see a stop at a line’s private island on the itinerary. Stops here are a great option as they allow the line to control certain elements of what guests will experience, including health and safety protocols, when they get off the ship. 

One theme that each of these destinations have in common is that they offer no shortage of things to fill your day. We recommend researching before you get to your port stop to make sure you make the most of the experience. We rounded up some of our top member tips to help you plan your visit to a cruise line private island. 

Read More: Things to do on a Cruise Line Private Island

Castaway Cay (Bahamas) - Disney Cruise Line

Photo by member Zambi

One of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen. It's Disney's private island, so of course everything is kept in great condition. The water was crystal clear, and the beach had white sand. They have something for everyone. Activities for kids, private cabanas, and live music. - hh4

Don't take the shuttle, you'll see more characters if you walk to the beach. - wed81068

Not necessary to be first off the ship - there is plenty of space and time to enjoy activities and lunch. - sheatsley280

Serenity Bay (the adult-only beach) has to be one of my favorite chill spots. Short tram ride to paradise. Full bar service, nice bathrooms, & adult only BBQ area for lunch. We always try to get there early to get a spot near the facilities. Water is clear and SUPER shallow. Perfect for sipping a drink (try a conch cooler) and relax in the beautiful ocean. - tjon2134

Favorite part of the trip! Beautiful grounds, plenty of lounge chairs. Make sure you snorkel, so much fun! We also did the stingray feeding/snorkeling excursion - was a highlight of our second day at Castaway Cay. If you can do a cruise with two stops to Castaway, do it! - Rajnoch

Explore All Cruises to Castaway Cay  

Great Stirrup Cay (Bahamas) - Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas

Photo by member TiffnSean

Love the private island. Food and drink available at no extra charge is wonderful. - drchrispy

We bypassed the first two beaches and found peace and tranquility on the very last beach. Just keep following the path past the big tower, and the beach is on your right-hand side. - JShag

Go over early on the tender to enjoy as much time as you can there. - chrisingmanson

Loved this port! Mojitos from the Bacardi Bar were on point! Stingray excursion was great - even got to hold a huge starfish! Tenders were smooth & fun. Beautiful island, perfect day! - JanShanJess

Now this is paradise! My favorite Port of call by far! I highly recommend renting a cabana and it is well worth the money! - jbaby901

See All Cruises to Great Stirrup Cay

Perfect Day at CocoCay (Bahamas) - Royal Caribbean

Photo by member Delmark 

If you love to lounge by the pool, make sure you get off the ship early and head to the Lagoon Pool. I recommend getting the white lounge chairs on the side of the pool so when you’re tanning/relaxing you can barely feel the heat as you’re in the water as well. - Jeffery0409

If you are looking for a relaxing peaceful experience, I highly recommend renting a beach bed. We rented one on Chill Island and it was amazing; worth the price. - wms1216

CocoCay was AMAZING... food was free and very good (amazing tacos) and a swim-up bar with TONS of bartenders waiting to help before you even sit... awesome, DJ playing music. Was literally a perfect day. Wish we were there every day of the cruise! - athornton

We are budget cruisers and didn’t pay extra for the water park, but really feel like we didn’t miss a thing. There is a kids water park that does not require purchase, that our kids would have loved if we would have brought them. The island is beautiful, and with only our ship docking it didn't feel crowded at all! Food was great, definitely try the Snack Shack! Really was a perfect beach day. - rnottingham1

We got out there early and found chairs in front of the beach in Chill Island. We had people bringing us drinks all day and had 4 chairs with umbrellas. The water was warm but it did get a little breezy. The food is FANTASTIC and there are plenty of bars. The shopping is priced really high which was a little disappointing. But the beach is beautiful and soft and we saw stingrays swimming right up to us. We didn't purchase anything extra and used snorkel gear and vests for free. - rdh1977

See All Cruises to Perfect Day at CocoCay

Half Moon Cay (Bahamas) - Carnival Cruise Line and Holland America Line 

Photo by member Milton

If there is a Heaven on earth we found it at Half Moon Cay! The most beautiful water and softest sand I’ve ever seen. Felt like corn starch! I will return! Only wish Carnival would extend the drink package you purchase to include it here. - Boogaloo

We were concerned that being a private island would mean less to do or more money out of pocket, but this was the best stop of the trip. The beach was like swimming in a pool, except the sand was amazing and you could see fish and rays swimming with you. They also have lunch served on the island - all-inclusive. - kgarrigan

If you like quiet, stay immediately at the beach near the debarkation. If you prefer a more fun area get on the courtesy shuttle and get off at the BBQ area and find the Captain Morgan which is a bar shaped like a ship. They also have a DJ and some of the crew hang out and play games there. - captncool

Great port if you want a free beach day. You can get off the ship and not spend a single penny on the island if you didn't want to. We rented a clamshell for the day and loved it. Definitely worth every penny (and it wasn't expensive) to have a place to escape the sun and hang out in the shade. The free lunch was good, the Shipwreck Bar was neat and a great spot for photos. All in all a wonderful day on a beautiful island. - Sealavie

See All Cruises to Half Moon Cay

Harvest Caye (Belize) - Norwegian Cruise Line 

Photo by member oakleyb

Thought this port was one of the best ports! Very nice pool and beach! Just watch out, iguanas like to swim in the pool also! - PAGSY2000

No excursions, but Harvest Caye is beautiful and it was amazing to lay on the beach between the pool and ocean. Don't book an excursion here---enjoy the port! - becca1006

We took an excursion to Goff's Caye, which is a small private island that looks like paradise! It takes about 40 mins to tender there from the port, but it's a fun boat ride. The sand was soft and white, the water was clear blue, and the Belizean bbq was delicious. - alan1001

Really cool place, lots of things to do. Splash pad, pool, wildlife preserve, beach, zip lines, and much much more! I love this port! - jenrol1

Go into this with the mindset that this is no different than any other port, in that you will pay for food and drinks. With the “extra cost” off your brain, you will enjoy a relaxing day! There were tons of lounge chairs with umbrellas, the food was good and really not expensive when you compare to what we pay in the States. - Janecj4

See All Cruises to Harvest Caye

Labadee (Haiti) - Royal Caribbean

Photo by member serquin20

By far my favorite place I have ever been, It was my 5th time there and I can not get enough. It is the most beautiful and relaxing place on earth. This time around I got married on the island. It was the most romantic and exquisite place to have a perfect wedding! - KristinaLBR

Rented an over-the-water cabana on Nellie's Beach. Well worth every penny that it cost! Awesome view, wonderful breeze, comfort & roomy for our group of 6 people. Cabana came with a cooler of large bottles of water, beach towels, 2 lounge chairs, water mats and a personal cabana attendant. - cruiserdh

It is an absolutely beautiful port and offers plenty of extra activities to enjoy. We purchased All-Day tickets for the Dragon's Tail Coaster, which is great fun and offers amazing views of the island and ship. - JOHIOSTATE

This was our third time at Labadee so we chose to just do a beach day. My advice for first-timers (or anyone that doesn't know) is to walk or take the tram over to Columbus Cove. Almost everyone goes to Adrenaline Beach because it's the largest beach and closest to the ship. However, chairs quickly fill up and the beach is very rocky. Columbus Cove is about a 10-15 minute walk from the ship, has a beautiful sandy beach, is not full of people, and also hosts the AquaPark. - cupofjoe18

See All Cruises to Labadee

Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve (Bahamas) - MSC Cruises 

Photo by member wandEric 

I have been to a couple of private islands so far, and the new Ocean Cay reserve is my new favorite! The island is very beautiful and clean. I am not a huge beach person, as I typically get bored on them quite quickly, but I really enjoyed my time on the island. It’s fairly small so it’s easy to see everything. - ahoyoy

Very nice island. If you need shade you will want to rent a beach umbrella. Convenient tram to move around. - cruiseallfun

The long day at the island was fantastic. Lots of sunbathing and swimming, and we were able to go paddle boarding which was really fun. The parade, dance and lighthouse show at the end of the night made it unforgettable. - mellyann11

New island for MSC. Clean and beautiful. Being in the Yacht Club one gets a delicious lunch and all the drinks one can drink. Fantastic! - maxdoc4

They have a free buffet from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m., and there are free food trucks scattered throughout the island. Nighttime entertainment was a junkanoo parade followed by a light show on the lighthouse.  - SRAIbritton

See All Cruises to Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve

Princess Cays (Eleuthera, Bahamas) - Princess Cruises and Carnival Cruise Line 

Photo by member da7keith

Rented a $199 bungalow. It came with floats, 4 sets of snorkeling gear, reserved chaises, umbrellas and a shower. They brought a cooler of sodas, chips, salsa, guacamole and sour cream, and a huge plate of fresh fruit. Close to bathrooms and the BBQ. Air-conditioned if you wanted to cool off. Best money we spent on this trip! Private and away from the masses. - pmcd653

We really enjoyed Princess Cays! We decided not to do any excursions here and just enjoy a beach day. We found 5 loungers under an awning in the shade (score!) and did some swimming. The beach was a bit rocky where you first get in but we had water shoes so we were prepared. - SailAwayfor5

Awesome snorkeling, calm beaches, good buffet, vendors were really nice and their handmade items are impressive! We enjoyed a day in the sun and wished we had 2 days there! - PauseThisMoment

Perfect! No excursion but we took full advantage of everything available to us. Basketball, volleyball, beaches, snorkeling, eating, shops, games, dancing. All fabulous. - sarahcirene81

See All Cruises to Princess Cays 

Read More:

Return to Cruising: Guide to Cruise Line Private Islands

Smackdown: Perfect Day at CocoCay vs Castaway Cay

7 Best Things to do in Labadee

Photo Tour of Princess Cays

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