Cruise passengers get perks on private islands

By Bob Schulman

Photo: Bob Schulman

Do you have a Caribbean cruise set for an upcoming vacation? Is there a stop at the cruise line’s private isand – and are you wondering what kind of shape it’s in after the recent hurricanes? You can rest easy, because most of the lines’ private islands and beaches made it through Mother Nature’s wrath without a scratch. Some had only minor damage (since repaired) and all are now open for business (if you call flaking out on powdery sands and beach sports “business”).

According to the online cruise marketplace CruiseCompete, here’s where the lines’ private islands are and what you’ll find there:

Most of the islands dot The Bahamas, such as Disney Cruise Line’s Castaway Cay near Great Abaco. The island offers docking for the Disney ships, which allows guests to easily travel back and forth to their liner (vs. ship-to-shore shuttles). Attractions include the Castaway Family Beach, Serenity Bay for adults, a teens-only activity area called The Hide Out and supervised programs for children at Scuttle's Cove.

Photo: Bob Schulman

Holland America Line’s Half Moon Cay (aka, Little San Salvador) is between Eleuthera and Cat Island. Along its 700-acre lagoon guests can frolic with stingrays and enjoy various water sports, a children's aqua park and a buoyed personal watercraft course. Other perks on the island include beachside cabanas with butler service, showers and misters and eco-tours by glass-bottom boat.

Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian Cruise Line’s island, is located in The Bahamas’ Berry Island chain. Among its features are beachfront cabanas, all kinds of watersports and a 40-foot-high, 175-foot-long waterslide said to be the world’s largest inflatable waterslide. On the drawing board is a “winding river” attraction along with additional nature trails and beaches.

Photo: Bob Schulman

Passengers on Princess Cruises can do some shopping, sample the local chow, down exotic cocktails or just flake out in the Caribbean sun – or cool it in the shade under umbrellas and in tiki huts -- on the line’s Princess Cays on Eleuthera. More active guests can rent aqua bikes, seaboards, paddleboats, clear-hull kayaks, sailboats or float rafts.

The island of CocoCay, which features a 20,000-square-foot aqua playground called Caylana’s Castle Cove, is designed exclusively for passengers of Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises. Besides beach and water activities popular attractions include parasailing up to 400 feet.

New attractions in the works include a craft market and a shore excursion building. Also on tap is a water park, a ropes course and a zipline.

Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

Also in The Bahamas, MSC Cruises and Carnival Cruise Line are reportedly investing in private beach destinations. MSC’s will be in the Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve near Bimini, and Carnival is said to be working on a private beach on Grand Bahama Island.

Among private islands and beaches elsewhere in the Caribbean is another getaway of Royal Caribbean and Celebrity called Labadee, a 260-acre beach resort on the northern coast of Haiti. Awaiting passengers there are seven different “neighborhoods” (Buccaneer’s Bay, Dragon’s Plaza, Labadee Town Square, Adrenaline Beach, Columbus Cove, Nellie’s Beach and the Barefoot Beach Club).

Photo courtesy of Disney Cruise Line

Norwegian also has a private island at Harvest Caye on the Caribbean rim at Belize. And Costa Cruises offers passengers a private beach on Catalina Island off the southeast corner of the Dominican Republic.

CruiseCompete notes it has been trusted by more than a million cruise consumers since it opened is online doors in 2003. Its Website (www.cruisecompete.com) offers a marketplace in which consumers can get a wide range of cruise info and price quotes from competing travel agents. Customers book cruises directly with their selected agent.

About cays and keys: A “cay” (pronounced “key”) is usually a small, sandy island. The word is sometimes spelled “cay” and sometimes “caye.”

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