Many people don’t know that ‘private islands’ aren’t just for reclusive billionaires and Bond villains. Several of these ‘strictly off-limits’ tropical paradises are owned by cruise lines and reserved for the use of their holiday-makers exclusively. Each operates almost as a self-contained city.
It has permanent residents (mostly the staff, their families, and others connected with the resort in some other way), power generating facilities, water treatment plants, and of course the bars, restaurants and vacation facilities that are the real draw.
Most such islands offer activities like:
- Beach Volleyball and other sports
- Aqua Cycles, Wave Runners, Kayaks, and even catamarans or sail boats
- Parasailing, snorkelling and swimming
- Horseback riding and bicycling
- Hair braiding, massages, and spa pampering
- Live entertainment of various kinds
- Live entertainment
- Fine dining and night life
Here, we’ve collected some information on some of our favourite cruise line-owned and operated private islands. Are there any we missed? Be sure to tell us in the comments section!
1. Castaway Cay, Bahamas
Disney Cruise Lines owns 1000-acre Castaway Cay, and maintains it as just the wonderland you’d expect. Children and teens are very well served, as you’d expect, but the adults who pay for it all are not forgotten!
The white sand beaches are divided between children, families, and over-18s only, so you can have just the experience you want. They offer fishing excursions to the nearby Abaco islands, and the glass bottom boat excursions are a definite must-see!
2. CocoCay, Bahamas
CocoCay offers white sand beaches and access to amazing island countryside, but only to Royal Caribbean customers! CocoCay, one of the Berry Islands, covers 140 acres, and has very recently undergone a multi-million-pound renovation.
Not only were new scuba and snorkelling facilities added, new bars, shops and eateries now dot the island. It has also been made much more handicapped-accessible. The real star of the show, though, is the 20,000-foot Caylana’s Castle Cove aqua adventure park (for children and adults).
3. Labadee, Hispaniola
Technically, Labadee is a peninsula, but it definitely belongs on this list! Royal Caribbean owns Labadee, which is perfectly placed to take advantage of Hispaniola’s luxuriously rain-forested mountain terrain.
The resort covers 260 acres, and includes a newly build children’s water park in addition to everything else you would expect from a private (nearly) island resort. A great deal of the peninsula was recently made wheelchair-accessible, and trams circle the entire site continuously. While you’re there, don’t miss Malfini Beach!
4. Half Moon Cay, Bahamas
Half Moon Cay has been owned and operated by the Holland America cruise line for 20 years, and has racked up quite a few awards in that time, including Porthole Cruise Magazine’s “Best Private Island” 4 years in a row!
One of the larger private islands on this list at more than 2400 acres, Half Moon Cay (technically still called Sa Salvador Island) has plenty of room for holiday-makers and wildlife alike. In fact, the island is also a Bahamian National Trust Wild Bird Preserve. You can also snorkel with the stingrays, and the kids will love Half Moon Lagoon!
5. Princess Cays, Bahamas
Another not-quite-a-private-island, Princess Cays takes up 40 acres of Eluthera Island, 30 miles from Nassau. To be fair, the island is around 100 miles long.
Princess Cruises does own the entire southern tip of the island, including the prerequisite white sand beaches, scenic mangrove forests, and clear, snorkelling-friendly waters, so exclusivity and privacy are definitely taken care of. They even offer transparent hulled kayaks! The beach barbecue is a huge part of the experience, and three bars and live music venues complete the evening perfectly.
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