9 Cruise Line Private Islands and Where They Are Located

9 Cruise Line Private Islands and Where They Are Located

Looking for a port less traveled? Perhaps one that won’t have six ships in port on the same day? Your best bet is to check out the private islands owned by each of the major cruise lines.

cruise line private islands

These private destination paradises offer the ultimate beach day with smaller crowds, no fights for a  beach lounger, and meals included in your cruise fare.

Check out these 9 cruise line private islands:

Castaway Cay | Half Moon Cay| Perfect Day at Cococay | Great Stirrup Cay | Princess Cays | Labadee | Harvest Caye | Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve

1. Castaway Cay

disney castaway cay island bahamas

Disney Dream docked at Castaway Cay. (Photo courtesy of David Roark/Disney Cruise Line)

  • Location: Private island in the Bahamas
  • Cruise Line: Disney Cruise Line
  • Dock or Tender: Dock

This private Bahamian island is owned by and operated exclusively for Disney Cruise Line. It opened in 1998 after a $25 million renovation of Gorda Cay, previously an airstrip for bootleggers and drug runners.

Designed with a “castaway” theme, the island features food service, shops, three separate beaches (including an adults-only option), water sports, shore excursions, and even its own 5K race. Guests are able to use their room keys to charge on the island and Disney even offers onshore child care.

Castaway Cay was the first cruise line private island to skip the tender ride, since Disney dredged the harbor and built a pier.

Before you leave, don’t forget to stop by the post office to mail a letter back home. The postmark is exclusive to the island and mentions Castaway Cay.

2. Half Moon Cay

Carnival Cruise Line and Holland America Line both call to Half Moon Cay in The Bahamas.

  • Location: Private island in the Bahamas
  • Cruise Lines: Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line
  • Dock or Tender: Tender

Officially owned by Holland America Line, this 2,400-acre island paradise is used primarily by Holland America and Carnival ships. The name Half Moon Cay comes from the island’s 2.5-mile-long crescent-shaped beach.

MORE: How To Maximize Your Stay at Half Moon Cay [Photos]

Half Moon Cay is a tender port, but many of the amenities and offerings make up for that inconvenience. Free BBQ for lunch, horseback riding on the beach, a kid’s water park area, and a chance to swim with stingrays are all on offer.

The island typically ranks second among private island destinations, only beaten by Castaway Cay.

3. Perfect Day at CocoCay

perfect day at cococay royal caribbean bahamas

Perfect Day at CocoCay. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean Group)

  • Location: Private island in the Bahamas
  • Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
  • Dock or Tender: Dock

Originally envisioned as a private island destination by Admiral Cruises in the late 1980s, CocoCay opened to Royal Caribbean passengers in 1990 after the line acquired Admiral. While always a popular tender port in the Bahamas, a day at CocoCay became perfect after a $250 million rehab that included the addition of a water park, pier, multiple pools, and more.

Perfect Day at CocoCay, the awkward name the island assumed after the renovations, is on-par with Castaway Cay as a cruise draw for families. The Thrill Waterpark (book early) carries an extra admission charge, but features 13 water slides, including the largest in North America, and the largest wave pool in the Bahamas.

However, a water park ticket isn’t necessary to enjoy most of what the 140-acre island has to offer, including multiple beaches, a freshwater pool, and beach-side sports including volleyball, basketball and more. There’s no adults-only area here, but the extra-charge Coco Beach Club, with an infinity pool and sit-down restaurant, is likely to attract fewer kids than the rest of the island.

4. Great Stirrup Cay

great stirrup cay bahamas norwegian cruise private island

An aerial view of Norwegian’s Great Stirrup Cay. (Photo courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

  • Location: Private island in the Bahamas
  • Cruise Line: Norwegian Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises
  • Dock or Tender: Tender

The first cruise line private island destination, Great Stirrup Cay opened to Norwegian Cruise Line guests in 1977. Once a hideout for pirates, Great Stirrup Cay is now a haven for sun-seekers thanks to its expansive beaches.

For those looking to be more active, parasailing, snorkeling, kayaking, and even driving a wave runner are all options here. Similar to other private islands, you’ll get an island BBQ and the ability to purchase frosty drinks while sitting in your complimentary lounge chair.

PHOTOS: First Look at Great Stirrup Cay’s Redevelopment

Kids will love this stop too as the island features the world’s largest inflatable water slide, the Hippo Water Slide which stands at 40-feet high and 175-feet-long.

In the early days of the island, cruisers were brought ashore by tenders that landed on the beach, Normandy Invasion-style, but as part of upgrades in 2017, Norwegian Cruise Line built a harbor with tender docks, making for a much smoother arrival experience.

5. Princess Cays

princess cays bahamas

Princess Cay offers plenty of water sports. (Photo via Princess Cruises)

  • Location: Private destination on Eleuthera
  • Cruise Lines: Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line
  • Dock or Tender: Tender

While not a stand-alone private island, Princess Cays rests on the southern tip Eleuthera in the Bahamas, and most cruisers would never realize they’re on a larger strip of land. Owned, as the name suggests, by Princess Cruises, Princess Cays is also a destination for Carnival Cruise Line.

Home to the standard amenities – several beaches, including a private adults-only area, water sports, a pool for kids, multiple bars, and wildlife excursions, it’s easy and relaxing to spend a day here. Check out the private cabana rentals for a bit of extra privacy and service. Princess Cays is a tender port, but the operation runs smoothly for the short ride from and to your ship.

6. Labadee

labadee haiti royal caribbean

Onboard the Dragon’s Breath Flight Line in Labadee, Haiti. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean Group)

  • Location: Private destination in Haiti
  • Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean, Azamara Club Cruises
  • Dock or Tender: Dock

The second of Royal Caribbean Group’s private destinations, Labadee is located in a lush, green forest on the northern coast of Haiti. Opened in 1986, Labadee has changed a bit since those days – including a $55 million upgrade in 2009. No tender is necessary here, even for Oasis-class ships, thanks to upgrades to the pier.

An all-you-can-eat BBQ lunch is included in your visit to this port. As for the rest of the day, this is the port you’ll want to plan water activities – including snorkeling, jet skiing, parasailing, kayaking, and more.

But, the island’s biggest claim to fame is the Dragon’s Breath Flight Line: The world’s longest zip-cable over water.

Further inland is the Dragon Coaster, twisting and turning alpine slide. While it’s necessary to leave the secured, private area to access these attractions, you’re well looked after by Royal Caribbean staff.

7. Harvest Caye

harvest caye belize norwegian cruise line

The newest destination by Norwegian is Harvest Caye, Belize.  (Photo courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

  • Location: Private Island in Belize
  • Cruise Line: Norwegian Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Oceania Cruises
  • Dock or Tender: Dock

Harvest Caye welcomed its first guests in late 2016. Located just a mile off the coast of Belize, this private island offers Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings passengers a seven-acre beach, a 15,000 square foot swimming pool, pool-side cabanas, water activities in the private lagoon, shopping, and dining.

There are a number of nature and wildlife-focused activities on the island, making this a great stop for nature lovers. At the saltwater lagoon, kayaking and paddleboarding will keep you busy for the afternoon, and Belize’s Great Barrier reef that surrounds the island makes for a first-class snorkeling and coral viewing experience.

If you want to explore further into Belize, an excursion to the Mayan archeological site of Nim Li Punit is the perfect opportunity.

8. Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve

MSC’s Ocean Cay Marine Reserve was opened in early 2020.

  • Location: Private island in the Bahamas
  • Cruise Line: MSC Cruises
  • Dock or Tender: Dock

Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve welcomed its first guests in December 2019. Located in the Bahamas, the private island destination is a stop on most of MSC Cruises’ Caribbean itineraries.

Built as an industrial island and used primarily as an industrial scrapyard and sand excavation site in the 1960s and 1970s, MSC purchased the island in 2015 and has invested $200 million in creating a tropical paradise.

MORE: 15 Tips for Visiting Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve

The island offers an environmentally-focused experience, with the waters surrounding the cay serving as a protected space for coral and marine life to flourish.

Cruisers can enjoy 8 beaches, a spa, nighttime junkanoo parades and light shows, zipline from the picturesque lighthouse, multiple bars, and several dining experiences — including food trucks. The island’s shade canopy is still growing in, so be sure to pack your sunscreen when going ashore.

9. The Beach Club at Bimini

beach club at bimini bahamas virgin voyages

The Beach Club at Bimini – Rendering courtesy of Virgin Voyages

  • Location: Private destination on Bimini in the Bahamas
  • Cruise Line: Virgin Voyages
  • Dock or Tender: Dock, with a “short transfer” to The Beach Club

Set to debut when Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady makes her inaugural sailing in 2021, The Beach Club at Bimini promises sailors an adults-only beach, scuba diving, snorkeling, dolphin swims, and a hip, DJ-driven pool party that will be the place to see and be seen. Each evening, a beachfront bonfire will cap off the ship’s visit to this private port, located on the Bahamian island of Bimini.

The Beach Club at Bimini is being developed in conjunction with Resorts World Bimini. When a Virgin Voyages ship is in port, passengers will have exclusive use of the facilities. On days when a ship is not scheduled to call, Resorts World guests will be able to access the club.

Have you visited any of these private ports? Which one is your favorite?

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overview of nine private cruise line destinations in the caribbean and bahamas

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