022019_SJ_TravelColumnParadise

Private islands are part of the experience package provided by cruise lines for couples, families and groups. / Contributed

As if having all those tremendous Caribbean destination ports wasn’t enough, all the major cruise lines have also been adding their own private island destinations.

Over the past several decades that wonderful thing called competition has led cruise lines to invest millions of dollars in private islands to try and win your business.

Not only has this led to more options for exciting and relaxing venues, it has taken the strain off existing destinations as far as crowds. Especially if you are into “beach time” these islands are definitely a win for you.

Here is a quick rundown of the top 8 cruise line private islands or Cays (pronounced “keys”):

1. Castaway Cay (Disney Cruise): 1,000 acres in the northern Bahamas. Trivia: This is the location where Tom Hanks met his mermaid (Darry Hannah) in the movie “Splash”. This destination has beautiful beaches, pools and waterslides, bike trails, fishing, massages, parasailing, and even stingray interaction.

2. Half Moon Cay (Holland America, a division of Carnival): This 2,400 acre Bahamian island boasts a beautiful 2 mile white sand beach and a lot of other activities including snorkeling, hiking, windsurfing, fishing, scuba, children’s playground, beach volleyball, and more. All facilities here are ADA compliant including hard surfaced pathways connecting venues.

3. Coco Cay (Royal Caribbean): Royal started leasing this 140 acre tract on the Bahamian island previously called Little Stirrup Cay. Over the past couple years they have invested $200 million to upgrade this area and have renamed it CocoCay. This upgrade included the addition of the largest freshwater pool in the region, a zipline that ends with a splash, a helium balloon ride that takes you 450 feet in the air and provides a breathtaking view of the area. The upgrade also included the pier which will now be able to accommodate the newest mega ships. The water park also includes 13 slides (one at 135 feet high) and a wave pool.

4. Great Stirrup Cay (Norwegian): This 25 acre Bahamian island features dining, private beachfront cabanas, and a kid-friendly water park. Through Norwegian’s new “Edge” program the island will also have available a luxury island experience with a secluded pristine beach, exclusive dining options, and luxury 1 and 2 bedroom beach villas.

5. Harvest Cay (Norwegian): This 75 acre private retreat is an island off the coast of Belize. It has typical private island amenities such as an expansive pool with a swim-up bar, salt-water lagoon for water sports, exclusive 7-acre beach and exciting shore excursions ranging from zip lining across the island to snorkeling the world's second largest barrier reef.

6. Labadee (Royal Caribbean): This 260 acre private beach is on Haiti’s north coast. Some of the activities available here are snorkeling, all you can eat bar-b-q, a 2,600 foot long zip line across water, and/or just relaxing on the beach.

7. Ocean Cay (MSC Cruises): This brand new (opens November 2019) destination island is only 65 miles off the coast of Miami and stays here will extend into the evening so guests can enjoy nighttime activities such as watching the sunset on the beach and stargazing. Ocean Cay offers 7 distinct beaches with over 2 miles of white sand.

8. Princess Cays (Princess Cruises, a division of Carnival): This 40 acre Bahamian island retreat with 1.5 miles of white sand beach also features food, water sports, and even shopping including a local craft market. This location also offers an observation tower to observe this natural paradise.

If you would like help planning and preparing your next cruise that includes a private island vacation, contact Mike Hunter at 678-901-0993.