Those Caribbean Cruise Private Islands

In any number of surveys one of the top reasons for booking a Caribbean cruise is spending time on a tropical beach. If that’s what attracts you to Caribbean cruising make sure your cruise includes a day at a private island. Lots of time on a beautiful tropical beach, water sports, cook-outs, restaurants and bars, with many including water parks, zip lines and nature walks.

The Appearance And Rise Of Cruise Private Islands

Primarily a Caribbean phenomena the private island cruise destination was developed mainly as a business decision. Norwegian Cruise Line’s Great Stirrup Cay was the first cruise line private island acquired back in 1973. This developed destination had a number of benefits for the cruise companies.

  • It added an itinerary destination other ships didn’t offer.
  • It eliminated much of the port fee expenses.
  • It was a more controlled and safe environment.
  • It reduced the likelihood of passenger money being spent off-ship.

Soon after Norwegian Cruise Line opened Stirrup Cay other cruise companies recognizing the appeal of private islands, started planning their own. Depending on the definition, today the Caribbean is home to between 8 and 12 of these destination cruise ports and there are indications that the phenomenon is likely to appear in other world regions soon.

Coco Cay

The Caribbean private islands include:

Castaway Cay

Castaway Cay

  • Cruise Line: Disney Cruise Line
  • Location: The Bahamas
  • Castaway Cay is located in the Bahamas. Disney describe Castaway Cay as an island that has everything needed for the perfect beach getaway– including lounge chairs, beach umbrellas, and tasty food. The island also offers scenic walking trails, water play areas, open-air BBQ dining locations, and more.
NCL Great Stirrup Cay

Great Stirrup Cay

  • Cruise Line: Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Location: The Bahamas
  • Norwegian Cruise Line describes Great Stirrup Cay as an idyllic paradise. One of the oldest private islands in the Bahamas, it’s a traditional tropical destination, with beaches, lounges, and cabanas. Also featured are bars, restaurants, a spa, and a zipline.

Half Moon Cay

  • Cruise Line: Holland America Line
  • Location: The Bahamas
  • Holland America’s private island offers a wide array of activities, including snorkeling, kayaking, horseback riding, and more. With a half-moon shaped beach, the island even has a chapel for wedding and renewal of vows.
Half Moon Cay

Harvest Caye

  • Cruise Line: Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Location: Belize
  • Advertised as having a huge swimming pool, Harvest Caye is Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest private destination. Located in Belize, the island has a beach, a saltwater lagoon, a zipline, and a marina featuring bars and restaurants.
Harvest Cay


  • Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean International
  • Location: Haiti
  • Developed and operated by Royal Caribbean, the recreation area was opened around1985. While not an island it is an isolated peninsula. Labadee offers several beaches, an alpine coaster, a zipline, numerous watersports, food and a Haitian flea market.

Perfect Day CocoCay

  • Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean International
  • Location: The Bahamas
  • Perfect Day at CocoCay has recently been upgraded. It features a beach club with bars and restaurants, a lagoon, and a large water park with the tallest waterslides in North America. Another attraction is the Up, Up & Away helium balloon, allowing guests to view the island from the sky.
Coco Cay
Princess Cay

Princess Cays

  • Cruise Line: Princess Cruises
  • Location: The Bahamas
  • Princess Cruises, says that the private destination boasts outstanding amenities while carefully preserving local nature on the island. Among the attractions is an observation tower, a full range of watersports, and a beach BBQ area.

Ocean Cay

  • Cruise Line: MSC Cruises
  • Location: The Bahamas
  • A new private island, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, opened in 2019 it features a complete tropical experience with beaches, a saltwater lagoon, a lighthouse, a sports zone, and more. Promoted as more than a private island, it is a marine reserve. Around the island, you’ll find eight white sand beaches, two of them on a calm lagoon and the other six open to the ocean. It features a restaurant and bar within walking distance to any of the beaches. The landmark on the island is a Lighthouse.
Ocean Cay

Mahogany Bay

Mahogany Bay
  • Cruise Line: Carnival*
  • Roatan, Nicaragua
  • This beach destination is attached to a cruise port shopping village that includes good beaches, watersports and a zipline along with a couple of bars and a restaurant. It is also not a private island but a peninsula.
  • *Mahogany Bay was developed by a partnership with Carnival and the government and the cruise port is open to other cruise lines.

The Business Of Private Islands vs. Cruise Ports Of Call

Caribbean cruising has for some time represented about 35% of the worlds total cruise business. There are a number of factors involved in the size of this segment. The first is its near proximity to the huge North American market which allows potential passengers to discount the costs of getting to their cruise departure port when budgeting. Another huge element is the demand for tropical destinations. Tropical climes, white sand beaches and crystal clear waters top a majority of peoples travel wish list. In addition the Caribbean for its size provides more cruise destinations than almost anywhere else on the planet.

While the Caribbean is a lucrative cruise market it is also very competitive and there is a great deal of maneuvering to get bigger pieces of the market. Cruise lines work at this by offering more onboard amenities and ship features along with additional services and a big part also involves the appeal of the cruise itineraries. Profitability for each cruise hinges on several factors that include the booking income, filling the ship and controlling costs.

Port fees have always been a serious cost area for a cruise ship. Docking fees, often based on the ships gross tonnage, can range from $3,000 to over $50,000 per day and some ports add on a head fee per passenger. On top of that there are pilot and tug fees, security and more.

The conclusion is that private islands are a win-win for passengers and cruise ships.

5 thoughts on “Those Caribbean Cruise Private Islands

    1. I couldn’t agree more. We spent years working in the Caribbean and get together with a lot of our West Indian friends often. I’d pick curried goat at a beach shack over a fancy buffet anytime. Unfortunately even in Jamaica, often the resort areas try and keep the guests isolated from the real people of the island. The private islands are mostly a marketing and business bottom line decision.

      Liked by 1 person

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