One of the joys of sailing around the Caribbean is a stop-over at a cruise line’s private island playground that is fully equipped with food, drink, nautical toys and diversions for the whole family. With a little help from our friends at CruiseCompete we compiled a list of lines that provide beach time and nautical activities on the sand and sea:
Holland America’s Half Moon Cay is well staffed to provide passengers with whatever they need. For a fee they will put you in a private cabana (which includes an outdoor freshwater shower/misting station and indoor dining room and changing area) in advance. Once on site, guests are attended to by private butlers; they fill beverage glasses, prepare hot and chilled appetizers, and even
Costa Cruises voyages stop at Catalina Island, located just 1.5 miles from the southeast corner of the mainland of the Dominican Republic, which has a private beach where passengers can enjoy activities such as volleyball, snorkeling, “beach Olympics” and massages. Vacationers can also rent jet skis, go for banana-boat rides or simply relax on the beach. Day tours that explore the island are popular. It’s a treasure trove of culture and relaxation, with local musicians and exclusive shopping that add to its charm.
Disney’s Castaway Cay is a magical spot for all ages where the ship can pull right up to a dock rather than anchor in the sea. Diversions 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. There are also numerous water sports, biking, snorkeling parasailing, fishing and various water tour excursions.
Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian’s private island, is located approximately 120 nautical miles east of Fort Lauderdale in the Berry Island chain of the Bahamas, Great Stirrup Cay features snorkeling, paddle boats, sailboats, kayaks and parasailing. They’ve expanded their beachfront area, added a new Tender Pavilion (which makes getting on and off the island easier) and new dining facilities. The island also has “Cabanas on the Cay” (private beachfront cabanas) which offer exclusive amenities–and the line reports that they are already completely pre-booked. Norwegian also intends to include a new winding river and additional nature trails and beaches to this already-impressive island. The Hippo Water Slide, the world’s largest inflatable waterslide – 40 feet high and 175 feet long– remains a visitor favorite. (This feature does incur a separate cost, but families report it’s not to be missed.) Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Oceania and MSC Cruises will also sail to Great Stirrup Cay in 2016.
Princess Cruises –Princess Cays is located on the southern portion of alluring Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas, approximately 80 miles from Nassau. This is of my favorite islands in the sun with its white-sand beaches and turquoise waters that make for great snorkeling and swimming. You can also rent aqua bikes, seaboards, paddleboats, clear-hull kayaks, sailboats or float rafts. Guests looking for pure relaxation can do some shopping, taste the island cuisine and exotic cocktails or just soak up the warm Caribbean sun. There are plenty of beach umbrellas, tiki huts and hammocks hung beneath dozens of shady trees.
Royal Caribbean and Celebrity – the two share Coco Cay which features the 20,000 square-foot aqua playground Caylana’s Castle Cove which is exclusively for Royal Caribbean and Celebrity passengers. It’s a perfect spot for water lovers, featuring a white-sand beach, wave runners and snorkeling among coral reefs with vibrant tropical fish and sunken wrecks. Perhaps the most popular activity on Coco Cay, however, is parasailing, where guests ascend to 400 feet and get a bird’s-eye view of the island. The lines’ second island getaway, Labadee, has seen recent enhancements, and now features seven different “neighborhoods” (Buccaneer’s Bay, Dragon’s Plaza, Labadee Town Square, Adrenaline Beach, Columbus Cove, Nellie’s Beach and the Barefoot Beach Club) that have individualized offerings. Ride a rollercoaster at Adrenaline Beach, play at the aqua park in Columbus Cove or lounge in one of 20 private cabanas at the Beach Club (an experience exclusive to guests residing in a Grand Suite or above).
MSC Cruises sails the Berry Islands—30 precious cays located fifty miles north of Nassau, which are so rich in marine life that they earned the nickname of aquarium of the Bahamas. There the MSC cruise ship anchors in the sea and providing launch service to a private island called Little Stirrup Cay, also called Coco Cay which is only one kilometre long and less than 200 meters wide and not much bigger than a palm tree. The beaches on this part of the island face a reef basin, where manta rays, skates and many other fascinating fish often swim and can be observed by snorkelers there is also amazing hikes through the thickest vegetation following trails running along and across the island, aquatic adventures in the special marine park, kayaking, parasailing, races on a water scooter… or the alternative to simply plotz on the sand and sip a typical Coco Cay cocktail.
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