With travel brands looking to differentiate themselves by offering guests exclusive experiences, some cruise lines have gone “all in” and purchased their own private islands. This allows the cruise line to offer a completely different and uniquely tailored experience only available to travelers aboard their fleet of ships. Want to visit a private island on your upcoming cruise? Here’s a look at five cruise lines with their own private islands.
Norwegian Cruise Line
If you’re considering a Norwegian Cruise Line itinerary, you have two options for private islands. The first is Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas, and the newest acquisition is Harvest Caye in southern Belize. On Harvest Caye, you can zipline across the island, relax on a sandy spot of the seven-acre beach, have a drink at the pool’s swim-up bar or check out the saltwater lagoon for some water sports.
Disney Cruise Line
You don’t have to be traveling with little ones to appreciate all the Disney touches at Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas. You can even choose short itineraries that take you to Castaway Cay for a day and then head back to Florida. There is something for all ages here, including an adults-only beach, Serenity Bay.
Paul Gauguin Cruises
While most private islands are in the Caribbean, Paul Gauguin Cruises owns Motu Mahana in French Polynesia. Given that Paul Gauguin specializes in small-ship cruises, the experience is even more intimate here.
Bring snorkel gear from the ship to explore the island’s shallow waters, or hang out on the beach where you can order one of 18 different cocktails from the full-service bar. If you want to do both, Motu Mahana even has a floating lagoon bar, so you never have to get out of the water. There is a large barbecue feast, culinary demonstrations (the Poisson Cru one is not to be missed) and you can even book an over-the-water massage while on the island.
Like Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean has multiple private islands, including the brand new CocoCay, which won’t be fully operational until the end of 2019. CocoCay will start welcoming guests on its new pier when a variety of attractions open, including Up, Up and Away helium balloon rides, Thrill Waterpark, Splashaway Bay and the Zip Line. Look for overwater cabanas and a beach club in December.
Royal Caribbean’s other private island is Labadee, in Haiti, where you can rent a private cabana, bungalow, beach bed or sun lounger. There are nature trails, or for the more adventurous, get in line for Dragon’s Breath Flight Line, a mountain-top zipline that takes you over the water at speeds of up to 50 mph. If you want to get away from it all, take the ferry to Columbus Cove, the least crowded beach on the island.
The Bahamas is a popular place for cruise ship private islands, and Holland America rounds out the list with its Half Moon Cay, a 2,400-acre island located between Eleuthera and Cat Island. While only a tiny percentage of the island has been developed, there is no shortage of things to see and do.
You can opt to relax on a stretch of beach, snorkel with stingrays or go birdwatching. The requirement to keep the majority of the island as a nature preserve and wild bird sanctuary was part of the sales agreement. Today, guests to the island can find a variety of nesting seabirds, and the lagoon is teeming with marine life like stingrays, turtles, lemon sharks and more.