|Writer Jim Fox at Holland America's Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas: Barbara Fox photo|
(Feb. 2, 2016) – One of the greatest indicators of luxury is exclusivity, and most vacationers long for an experience that is set apart from all others.
A visit to a private island certainly fits the bill; in fact, according to cruise experts CruiseCompete, the cruise lines’ private islands are the “Number One” port of call for their consumers. What makes these private island experiences so special, and what are the amenities of each?
Following are the top five amazing things that will happen when you visit a private island:
- You will come to a state of total and complete relaxation. A visit to a private island affords a unique opportunity for relaxation; one that whisks you away from all the pressures of everyday life. Gone are routines and obligations, replaced by beach umbrellas, cabanas and shady spots to relax. Take these moments to treat yourself to a beachside massage, or gain a little extra privacy in the seclusion of one of the islands’ quieter beaches … whatever it takes to let yourself totally unwind.
- You will find out what it means to “Live like a rock star”! On a private island like Holland America’s Half Moon Cay, the staff sees to it that your wish is their command! For a fee, cruise passengers can reserve a private cabana (which includes an outdoor freshwater shower/misting station and indoor dining room and changing area) in advance. Once on site, guests are attended to by private butlers; they fill beverage glasses, prepare hot and chilled appetizers, and even offer cool cucumbers to soothe eyes against the hot, tropical sun. So Hollywood!
- You’ll go “next level” on the adventure scale. For the active crowd, there are a multitude of options for guests, including island explorations, shopping and water sports activities. The choices will easily keep an energetic group going all day long. Tour the island via jeep, snorkel with stingrays, or take a kayak lagoon tour. Or perhaps parasailing, beach Olympics or the floating aqua playground are more to your liking … whatever your preference, options abound. And don’t worry about keeping children busy; families are more than welcome, with plenty to do for all ages.
- You’ll live the plot of your next great travel story. Take your ordinary life, then add the mystique of the Caribbean, the beauty of the island, and the once in a lifetime experience of luxury… and you’ve got a travel story people want to hear! Keep a journal of the experience; there’s nothing commonplace about time spent on a gorgeous beach in a foreign land. And don’t forget to take lots of pictures … friends will want to see the slide show that goes with this story.
- You will be stunned by the beauty of our planet and leave with a better appreciation of the world around you. If there is a paradise on Earth, this has to be it. The Caribbean islands offer some of the world’s most visually stunning locales, with dazzling blue waters, unique coral reefs, gorgeous beaches, and native wildlife. Natural beauty abounds in the most remarkable ways, and it all adds up to an experience that makes you realize the full richness of what our world has to offer.
Costa Cruises – Costa Cruises voyages stop at Catalina Island, located just 1.5 miles from the southeast corner of the mainland of the Dominican Republic. The line has a private beach on this island that features activities such as volleyball, snorkeling, “beach Olympics” and massages. Vacationers can also rent jet skis, go for banana-boat rides or simply relax on the beach. Day tours that explore the island are popular. It’s a treasure trove of culture and relaxation, with local musicians and exclusive shopping that add to its charm.
Disney Cruise Line – Disney’s Castaway Cay provides plenty of magical fun for people of all ages, and caters to guests in true Disney style, with all the conveniences. A major bonus of Castaway Cay is that the island features cruise ship-docking capabilities (versus shuttle boats between the ship and island), which allows guests to easily travel back and forth to their ship. Attractions include the Castaway Family Beach, Serenity Bay for adults, a teens-only activity area called The Hide Out and supervised programs for children at Scuttle's Cove. There are also numerous water sports, biking, snorkeling parasailing, fishing and various water tour excursions.
Holland America – Holland America’s Half Moon Cay has been ranked “Best Private Island” by Porthole Cruise Magazine for 14 years running, and is located on Little San Salvador Island in the Bahamas. (The island must remain 98% undeveloped as an international bird sanctuary.) The Cay’s 700-acre lagoon allows guests to feed stingrays and enjoy various water sports, a children's aqua park and a buoyed personal watercraft course. Other features include private beachside cabanas with private butler service, showers and misters and eco-tours by glass-bottom boat.
Norwegian Cruise Line – Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian’s private island, is located approximately 120 nautical miles east of Fort Lauderdale in the Berry Island chain of the Bahamas, Great Stirrup Cay features snorkeling, paddle boats, sailboats, kayaks and parasailing. They’ve expanded their beachfront area, added a new Tender Pavilion (which makes getting on and off the island easier) and new dining facilities. The island also has “Cabanas on the Cay” (private beachfront cabanas) which offer exclusive amenities–and the line reports that they are already completely pre-booked.
Norwegian also intends to include a new winding river and additional nature trails and beaches to this already-impressive island. The Hippo Water Slide, the world’s largest inflatable waterslide – 40 feet high and 175 feet long– remains a visitor favorite. (This feature does incur a separate cost, but families report it’s not to be missed.) Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Oceania and MSC Cruises will also sail to Great Stirrup Cay in 2016.
Norwegian is also currently developing a new private island experience, Harvest Caye. Harvest Caye is located in Belize and will feature an exclusive beach, a pool, watersports lagoon, and private cabanas. It will open in November 2016.
Paul Gauguin Cruises – Paul Gauguin visits Motu Mahana, part of the Society Islands. This lovely island offers a world of culture, with local crafts and cuisine, along with music and vanilla plantation tours. There is also waterskiing, kayaking and windsurfing available for the sports-minded crowd.
Princess Cruises – The line visits Princess Cays, which is located on the southern portion of Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas, approximately 80 miles from Nassau. This lovely island features white-sand beaches and turquoise waters that make for great snorkeling and swimming. Water lovers can also rent aqua bikes, seaboards, paddleboats, clear-hull kayaks, sailboats or float rafts. Guests looking for pure relaxation can do some shopping, taste the island cuisine and exotic cocktails or just soak up the warm Caribbean sun. There are plenty of beach umbrellas, tiki huts and hammocks hung beneath dozens of shady trees.
Royal Caribbean and Celebrity – Coco Cay, which features the 20,000 square-foot aqua playground Caylana’s Castle Cove, is an island designed exclusively for Royal Caribbean and Celebrity passengers. It’s a perfect spot for water lovers, featuring a white-sand beach, wave runners and snorkeling among coral reefs with vibrant tropical fish and sunken wrecks. Perhaps the most popular activity on Coco Cay, however, is parasailing, where guests ascend to 400 feet and get a bird's-eye view of the island.
The lines’ second island getaway, Labadee, has seen recent enhancements, and now features seven different “neighborhoods” (Buccaneer’s Bay, Dragon’s Plaza, Labadee Town Square, Adrenaline Beach, Columbus Cove, Nellie’s Beach and the Barefoot Beach Club) that have individualized offerings. Ride a rollercoaster at Adrenaline Beach, play at the aqua park in Columbus Cove or lounge in one of 20 private cabanas at the Beach Club (an experience exclusive to guests residing in a Grand Suite or above).
Interested in finding out more about the private island experience? CruiseCompete member-agents are the most well-educated, forward-thinking and trusted cruise specialists in the industry. If you’d like more information or assistance planning your shore excursion to a private island, please visit us at http://www.cruisecompete.com/, or http://www.cruisecompete.com/group_cruises/
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