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6 Of The Best......Cruise Line Private Islands

Joanna Hall

If being aboard a luxury ship and venturing into exotic parts of the world isn’t enough, a number of cruise lines offer the added attraction of a private island on their itineraries. Largely based in the Caribbean, these customised slices of paradise offer cruise guests a day at a private beach away from other tourists, with all mod cons. Here’s seven to choose from, including one in the South Pacific you may not have heard of.

Half Moon Cay, Holland America Line

Just over 20 years ago, Holland America Line bought a 2,400 acre island in The Bahamas called Little San Salvador. Today, it’s better known as Half Moon Cay, a private retreat for guests cruising the Caribbean. This unspoiled tropical haven is a Bahamian National Trust designated international wild bird preserve, as well as a playground for adults and children alike. This is the place to walk along three kilometres of white sand beach, swim among stingrays, enjoy a beachside massage, and more. Among its amenities are private cabanas with optional butler service, a private oasis cabana equipped with a with hot tub, wet bar, barbecue, and massage area for up to 25 people, a Bahamian chapel for wedding or renewal ceremonies, three water sports centres, and three waterfront bars including the new Captain Morgan on the Rocks Bar. 

Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian Cruise Line

Still in The Bahamas island chain, Great Stirrup Cay is a private 250-acre paradise located 130 nautical miles east of Fort Lauderdale in Florida. According to NCL, it’s an island designed for cruise guests, offering the freedom to do “whatever makes you happy”. Besides walking on the beach, sunbathing and snorkelling in crystal clear waters spotting tropical fish, you can also explore the coastline in a kayak, or take a WaveRunner out for a spin. If you’re really feeling adventurous, you can even parasail for breathtaking, birds-eye views of the island and the Caribbean beyond. Other features of the cay include a complimentary midday beachside BBQ, several bars, a kids’ play area, the world’s largest inflatable Hippo Water Slide, and live music.

Motu Mahana, Paul Gauguin Cruises

This is the only private island not in the Caribbean, but in the South Pacific’s glorious Tahiti. A small islet in the Society Islands next to Taha’a, and visited exclusively by the luxury ms Paul Gauguin, it’s a glorious place in which to wile away an afternoon, and find a small slice of paradise to call your own. Unlike most of the other islands, which are catering to large ships with many guests, Motu Mahana welcomes several hundred at most. Once ashore, there are loungers to enjoy the sun or shade, snorkelling on a reef off the beach, kayaking, having a beachside massage, or enjoying an al fresco BBQ. One popular pastime many guests enjoy is wallowing in the water with tropical fish nipping at your toes while enjoying a cocktail from the floating bar. All without the crowds.

Princess Cays, Princess Cruises

Back in the Caribbean, and The Bahamas specifically, Princess Cays has been an exclusive private island stop Princess Cruises’ passengers on Caribbean itineraries for years. The 40-acre facility is situated on the southern tip of the island of Eleuthera, located around 110 kilometres east of Nassau, with highlights including white sand beaches, and a coral reef with schools of tropical fish. Kids have their own activities area, with other things to do including snorkeling, joining a basketball or volleyball game, watersports including aqua bikes, Hobie Cat sailboats, and kayaks, and climbing the Crow's Nest Tower for the view. If all that activity gets your appetite up, there’s an authentic Bahamian barbecue on the beach, three bars in which to wet your whistle, and live music.

CocoCay and Labadee, Royal Caribbean

This major cruise line has no less than two private islands for guests to enjoy, depending on the itinerary. Nestling in the Bahamas, CocoCay sits between the popular cruise ports of Freeport and Nassau, a 140-acre plot of land with pristine beaches, translucent waters, new aquatic facilities, nature trails and plenty of spots in which to sit back, relax and enjoy the tropical sun. Occupying a large slice of Haiti’s north coast for some years, Labadee is a 260-acre private beach resort also exclusive to Royal Caribbean guests. New enhancements include seven neighbourhoods, each with a distinctive style; Buccaneer’s Bay, Dragon’s Plaza, Labadee Town Square, Adrenaline Beach, Columbus Cove, Nellie’s Beach, and the exclusive Barefoot Beach Club for suite guests. 


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  1. Posted by on 8th Jan 2019 Verified Customer

    Pity About The Locations 3 Star Review

    Shame these are all in the Caribbean as they look like great places to spend a day. Its such a long way to go for a cruise we tend to stick closer to home and head for the South Pacific or Asia on premium ships when they visit.

  2. Posted by on 7th Jan 2019 Verified Customer

    What A Lineup 5 Star Review

    Hailing from California I've been on a couple of in the Caribbean from Miami, and one in the South Pacific from Sydney. I spent a great day at Labadee in the Caribbean with my girlfriend at the time and we had a ball. Highly recommend picking a cruise with a stop like this you will have fun! Royal Caribbean is a great cruise line too :)