Nothing says “luxury” like a private beach, and on these cruises, you'll have the chance to indulge with this exclusive perk. Self-contained and safe, these islands typically offer a quality BBQ buffet-style lunch, sun chairs, play areas for children, and a tropical oceanfront setting. Beverages, premium water sports, and shore excursions are generally available for an additional cost and can be charged to an onboard account using a ship card. Here are five private islands and what to expect during a visit there.
Disney Cruise Line's Castaway Cay
Most Disney cruises to the Caribbean and Bahamas lead to the shores of Castaway Cay, a private island paradise with activities and areas for families, teens, and adults. Transportation is provided to and from various points on the 1,000-acre island, including a special tram to Serenity Bay, a beach area reserved exclusively for guests 18 years of age and older. A special highlight, for an extra charge, is Castaway Ray's Stingray Adventure, a one-hour experience, open to guests five years of age and older, where guests can swim and interact with Southern Stingrays in a private lagoon.
Holland America Line's Half Moon Cay
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This private Bahamian island boasts a 700-acre lagoon offering water sports on its protected waters. New amenities and shore excursions have been gradually added to Half Moon Cay over the years, always with an eye toward protecting the island’s natural beauty and preserving its status as an important migratory-bird sanctuary. For added fees, Half Moon Cay offers shore excursions ranging from a swim with stingrays to a horseback ride and swim. There are also new two-story beach villas available for rent during each call. Carnival Cruise Line also makes calls to this island, as the two lines are owned by the same parent company.
Norwegian Cruise Line's Great Stirrup Cay
Two hundred and fifty serene acres with updated dining facilities, comfort stations, a bandstand, private beachfront cabanas, a kid's play area, straw market, and beach volleyball courts greet guests at this private Bahamian paradise. A special offering for Norwegian Cruise is the new “Cabanas on the Cay,” exclusive private cabanas with VIP service and amenities. Several new island activities and shore excursions have also been added including jet skis, kayak tours through a man-made river within the island, and an eco-boat adventure tour. Other fun activities include snorkeling, floats, an inflatable hippo slide, and parasailing.
Princess Cruises' Princess Cays
Enjoy a private beach experience on Princess Cays, situated on 40 acres on Eleuthera in the Bahamas and boasting more than a half-mile of pristine beach shoreline. A barbeque is served and after lunch, guests can take advantage of water sports and volleyball, or reserve snorkel equipment, sea boards, floats, kayaks, paddle wheelers, aqua chairs, beach clamshells, and bungalows. Also check out the observation tower, with stunning ocean views, and local craft market.
Royal Caribbean's CocoCay
A day on CocoCay, nestled in a chain of Bahamian Islands, can be as relaxing as lounging on a chair with a good book, or as adventurous as snorkeling on a coral reef. Caylana's Aqua Park, a floating playground for youngsters of all ages, is a fun way to stay cool and for the older set, there are eco-tours, guided nature walks, and parasailing trips. There is a complimentary barbeque lunch served and tropical beverages are available for purchase. Passengers from sister cruise line Celebrity Cruises also visit this location from time to time.
Erica Lamberg is a business and travel writer based in suburban Philadelphia. Married with a son and daughter, she enjoys traveling with her family. In addition to Fodor's, her works have appeared in Gannett New Jersey, Bankrate.com, Cruise Critic, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Huffington Post and Family Vacation Critic.