The 8 Best Private Islands to Visit on Your Next Cruise

Cruises are floating resorts that mesmerize guests with fantastic food, sun-soaked pool decks, world-class entertainment, and tantalizing food. However, part of the cruising experience is disembarking at tucked away private islands, beaches, and cays you can’t access otherwise. These private areas are owned or operated by cruise lines exclusively for their guests.

These unique cornerstone excursions offer a few hours or an entire day of fun. Depending on your cruise line's island destination, expect beachfront access, tasty food, zip lines, private cabanas, and an idyllic backdrop for a coastal adventure.

Disney's Castaway Cay

Disney's infamous attention to detail and top-notch hospitality can be found on Disney Cruise Line’s private island at Castaway Cay. This beloved island is one of the many highlights of your Disney cruise and a guest favorite for all ages. Join a dance party with costumed characters like Lilo and Stitch, sail down water slides, or rent a paddleboard or kayak.

Families will love the 12-acre snorkel trail with underwater statues of Mickey Mouse. There's even a sunken submarine from the classic 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. Supervised childcare is available so parents can get in some private time. Unlike anything else in the Bahamas, you can join a Castaway Cay 5k offered at every visit.

Ocean Cay Marine Reserve

As one of the newest and biggest island developments by a cruise company, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve offers 95 acres and 1.5 miles of powdery beachfront with a Bahamian vibe. It's also the only Marine reserve experience among cruise lines and exclusive to MSC Cruises guests. Today the island still welcomes marine biologists, scientists, and other research experts to help bring the endangered corals back to health and encourage the return of marine life.

Get ready for a day in the sun with stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, bicycles, snorkeling equipment, and cabanas. Enjoy eight beaches, Sneakers Family Cove, glow-in-the-dark luminescent paddling for an unforgettable experience, and evening entertainment. The Luna Libre Party beach picnic features a dazzling light show projection against the backdrop of the lighthouse. You can also climb to the top for the best views of the island.

Unique features include an island spa with beachside massages and eco-friendly products. Guests can also flex their culinary skills at a Martha Stewart Cooking Class on Bahamian cuisine. You’ll end up with a 3-course dinner and cocktail making experience that turns you into an aspiring island chef.

Harvest Caye

The 75-acre oasis of Harvest Caye, Belize, features an exclusive beach, expansive pool with swim-up bar, salt-water lagoon, and snorkeling in the world's second-largest barrier reef. Guests can also zip line for a thrilling birds-eye view of the Caye. Nature lovers flock to the sanctuary to see macaws, butterflies, toucans and other small animals indigenous to the island.

Although the Harvest Caye is owned exclusively by Norwegian Cruise Line, they partnered with the local government to create an authentic cruise port. Guests sailing on Norwegian Cruise Line and Oceania Cruises feel like they’ve stepped right into Belize with locals manning the restaurants, shops and watersport activities.

Great Stirrup Cay

This 250-acre island is home to three white powdery beaches and tranquil waters. Dive right into the crystal blue water for a few hours of snorkeling. Guests from Oceania Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line are delighted by the underwater sculpture garden with rock statues of mermaids, sea creatures and fountains. Or take a guided trip for a sandbar getaway.

There’s also plenty of time to relax at a rented cabana or hammocks among the scattered palm trees. Parasailing 400 feet above the Bahamas Waters, kayaking and stingray encounters are also available for guests eager to soak up everything the island has to offer.

Perfect Day at CocoCay

Royal Caribbean's newly upgraded CocoCay features everything you would expect from a private island, including beachfront access, jet skiing, cabanas and water sports. But you can also take a 135-foot plunge from Daredevil's Peak to zip down the tallest waterslide in North America at their exclusive waterpark. Other thrilling experiences include a hot air balloon to soar 450-feet above the island.

Despite all the thrills, you can also do nothing but relax on Chill Island with a seaside daybed or private cabana with attendant service. Enjoy tropical food and drinks on this newly renovated $250 million island. Take a quick swim offshore to find a swim-up tiki bar or rent an over-the-water cabana for a one of a kind experience.

Labadee

The Haitian paradise of Labadee welcomes visitors from Royal Caribbean ships to a tranquil oasis with water thrills. Try your skills at the Arawak Aqua Park for a water park filled with obstacles, inflatable structures, slides and more. Dragon's Tail Roller Coaster winds through a forested mountainside with curves, dips and stunning views. However, no visit is complete without braving Dragon’s Breath Zipline for a sail 500 feet above ground over the longest over the water zip line course.

History aficionados should try the boat tours to see some of the area's impressive landmarks, including the Bay of Acul where Christopher Columbus visited. End the day relaxing with a visit to Paradise Cove or rent a cabana at Barefoot Beach to savor the tropical breezes.

Royal Caribbean is working on even more private island adventures to expand their offerings with one planned for Antiqua soon.

Princess Cays

Discover the southernmost tip of Eleuthera Island to discover Princess Cays, a private cruise port for Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and Holland America Line. Immediately kick off your day relaxing on the beach with a tropical drink or take a guided snorkeling adventure to the coral reefs of the Bahamian waters. You'll find all the popular go-to's like kayaking, as well as Bahamian fishing on your own or with a local fisherman.

Embark on a stingray tour to see the ocean's gentle creatures or a Dune Buggy Adventure through ancient church ruins and limestone hills. There's plenty to see and do on the island, including the Leon Lavy Native Plant Reserve featuring flora and fauna of the island.

Afterwards, try paddle wheeling, windsurfing, kayaking and other watersports to soak up the island vibe. Try cruising across the water on a banana boat to get your heart racing before some downtime at an air-conditioned bungalow for quiet time. Princess Cays also has a cozy kids club area that offers a reprieve for parents looking to explore while kids happily play. A playground and parent-supervised pool are also available for a family-friendly place to unwind.

Half Moon Cay

Step off your Carnival, Princess or Holland America cruise and onto the island paradise of Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas for turquoise waters, powder white beaches and unique activities like horseback rides right on the beach. Guests reach out and touch the velvety stingrays at the Cove during an educational session or set sail to explore the sea.

Snorkeling is also available, as well as a fantastical pirate ship at the waterpark. Taking a break for a fruity rum punch drink is a must while the kids play. For something more adventurous, try an eco-bike or hiking tour, or combine the two. There's also a tropical kayaking adventure to explore the area while gliding across the warm water.

Choosing Your Island Adventure

With so many private islands, cays and beaches to choose from, the real challenge is which one to visit first! Ready to start planning your next cruise and want to see how a travel agent can assist you in choosing the best options for your group or family? Schedule a complimentary trip planning session here.


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