|DETROIT (Nov. 28, 2023) – Imagine the dream vacation almost everyone desires: cruising through the tranquil blue ocean, basking in the seclusion of a Caribbean Island with pristine white sandy beaches, or embarking on an epic adventure in a thrilling destination.
Now, what if you could have it all in one vacation? Spending a day on a cruise line private island offers the perfect blend of luxury, nature and adventure, all accessible via a cruise ship that takes you right to the private island.
On a private island, you could have the freedom to unwind in cabanas with dedicated butlers, relish water slides with the kids, engage in exhilarating dolphin and stingray encounters, or explore underwater shipwrecks. For those seeking an extra dose of excitement, there are thrilling zip lines and high-speed boat adventures awaiting your discovery.
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Here are 10 Cruise Private Islands to Visit, Along With Their Unique Experiences and Tips
1. Motu Mahana – Paul Gauguin Cruises
| Motu Mahana Island – Paul Gauguin Cruises, French Polynesia (credit Gauguin Cruises)
|Slip away to Paul Gauguin’s private island, Motu Mahana, nestled northwest of Tahiti. Upon arrival, be warmly greeted by Les Gauguines and Les Gauguins, an exuberant group of people residing on the island, sharing the vibrant Polynesian culture. This enchanting haven draws travellers to unwind amidst pristine beaches, blue waters, and lush green vegetation. You can immerse yourself in kayaking, snorkelling, or diving amid the vibrant coral reefs or play a match or two of volleyball. Delve further into the luxurious experience of an overwater massage at Deep Nature Spa. You can also indulge in assortments of drinks, and even picking up skills like learning the art of tying a pareo from the ship’s fantastic hosts.
Unique Experience: If there’s one thing not to miss on Motu Mahana, it would be snorkelling in the pristine waters on the island. The vibrant coral reefs and majestic marine life offer an enchanting underwater world to explore, showcasing colourful tropical fish, sea turtles, and captivating aquatic scenes.
Tip: For a fantastic time at Motu Mahana, remember to bring your snorkeling gear for a personalized experience! And don’t forget sun protection—pack sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to avoid getting tanned.
2. Coco Cay – Royal Caribbean International, The Bahamas
|Perfect Day at CocoCay, Bahamas; credit Royal Caribbean
|The most vibrant island on the list is buzzling courtesy of the huge 13-slide Thrill water park and the Up, Up and Away helium balloon. Get a thrilling view of the island on the helium air balloon from 450 feet above the ground. Or get a margarita by the swim-up bar and jump into the largest freshwater pool in the Bahamas. Walk into their Coco Beach Club and dip into the infinity pool overlooking the ocean or enjoy the first overwater cabana in Bahamas with a private concierge serving you their signature Coco Cuvee cocktail.
Unique Experience: Enjoy gliding through the tallest waterslide in North America at Perfect Day Coco Cay.
Tip: Get around the island on the complimentary tram to maximize your day and don’t forget to try the Snack Shak’ delicious burgers.
3. Harvest Cay – Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Belize
|Harvest Cay-Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Belize (credit RSSC)
|The picturesque 75-acre Harvest Caye is a natural and cultural wonder dotted with mangroves. Look for sea turtles & manatees on glass bottom boats, paddle board across the second largest coral reef in the world or soar through the 4-football-field-long zip line. You can also drive through the local village for a sight of rural life and watch the artisans at work. The island has the perfect ratio of fun-filled entertainment and offbeat escape.
Unique Experience: Visit the Mayan ruins at Nim Li Punit to explore their history or go on a culture & medical trail with a Mayan shaman.
Tip: Guests can hike at Harvest Caye, so carry a pair of hiking shoes for an impromptu hike around the island.
4. Princess Cays – Princess Cruises, The Bahamas
|Princess Cays- Princess Cruises, The Bahamas
|This 40-acre retreat in the south of Eleuthera island is a haven bordered by greenery, lagoons, and sparkling, colorful fish-filled water. This tropical paradise is the perfect location to soak in the breathtaking nature views while swimming in its white sand beaches. You can partake in water sports to break a sweat or beat the heat with a refreshing drink while wandering the local craft market on the island.
Unique Experience: Enjoy a complimentary beachside barbecue to energize after a tiresome match of water volleyball.
Tip: Sunscreen is mandatory anywhere but bring ample sunscreen to Princess Cays since most activities are outdoors.
5. Halfmoon Cay – Holland America Line, The Bahamas
|Halfmoon Cay-Holland America Line, The Bahamas (credit HAL)
|The Bahamas’ most popular private island Halfmoon Cay, has won the Best Private Island award for the last 20 years. In here there’s always something for everyone. Children love the Half Moon Lagoon Aquapark, which has slides and a pirate ship to while away their time; adults can enjoy horse riding along the shores for some main-character energy. You can simply cozy up in a personal hammock to enjoy sunsets and privacy or kayak your way around the simmering blue water. The choices are endless.
Unique experience: The little chapel on the beach is open for wedding ceremonies or vow renewals, making it a beautiful venue for a romantic gathering.
Tip: There are about 40 unique species of birds on the island, pack in your binoculars and check how many you can spot.
6. Great Stirrup Cay – Norwegian Cruise Line, The Bahamas
|Great Stirrup Cay-Norwegian Cruise Line, The Bahamas (credit NCL)
|Norwegian’s private island features a 7-acre white sandy beach for its passengers to relax and unwind. Adventurers can enjoy kayaking along the coasts, snorkelling among the sea turtles and bright fish in the calm blue water or flying high on the island’s zip lines. This island also has a private luxury villa getaway Silver Cove with an impressive buffet, entertainment with on-demand movies, private restrooms opening to spectacular views of a beach. You can build delicious tacos to feast at the complimentary Abaco Taco Bar or enjoy their new food truck with refreshing drinks at Bacardi bar.
Unique Experience: The Island offers a one-of-a-kind experience of fun swimming with the pigs of Treasure Island.
Tip: Don’t forget to carry closed heel shoe for zip lining and enough USD for on-island purchases & souvenir shopping.
7. Bimini Beach – Virgin Voyages, The Bahamas
|Bimini Beach-Virgin Voyages, The Bahamas (credit Virgin Voyages)
|Virgin Voyages’ compact islands pack a punch with all the magnificent adventures it delivers. The retreat offers the best adventures, from underwater expeditions to exploring blue holes. You can also swim with the friendliest fish on the island of Bimini, the stingrays. The island sits close to the shallow reefs of Atlantic and is a perfect scuba spot with the most amazing sea life to encounter. Or if you prefer something less adventurous – ride through the Caribbean breeze on an open-air tram across North Bimini to experience the island and its rich history.
Unique Experience: Guests can dive and swim around the Wreck of Sapona with nurse and reef sharks at Triangle Rock in a safe and controlled environment.
Tip: If you want to dive with the elusive hammerhead sharks in their natural habitat at Bimini reefs then December through April is your window.
8. Castaway Cay – Disney Cruise Line, The Bahamas
|Castaway Cay-The Bahamas (credit Disney)
|Cast away your stress and enjoy the magic and the madness of Disney’s private island. You’ll find a beach for everyone – the Castaway family beach with Cookie’s BBQ restaurant, Serenity Bay is a secluded adults only zone with drinks from Air Bar and a Sports beach with volleyball & tetherball. And the cruise ship docking facility cuts off the hassle of a shuttle boat ride to the island. Go on a private romantic date dropping the children off at Scuttle Cove, the island’s supervised children’s club where kids get to catch appearances from their favorite Disney characters.
Unique Experience: Guests could mail charming cards postmarked Castaway Cay to friends and family through the working post office on the island.
Tip: Make sure you sip specialty frozen drinks in souvenir cups at Olaf’s Summertime Freeze near the Pelican Point tram stop.
9. Ocean Cay – MSC Cruises, The Bahamas
| MSC Ocean Cay -The Bahamas (credit MSC)
|The 95-acre Ocean Cay island of MSC stays true to the marine reserve experience. The retreat has six stunning beaches lined with silky white sand, a lighthouse with spectacular views and cabanas that double up as spas. Along with the usual list of daytime activities – the island features a glow-in-the-dark event where LED lights beneath stand-up paddleboards catch the curious creatures in the ocean. Top this with the vast food options from food trucks to coffee bars and restaurants serving authentic Bahamian cuisine – this is a paradise on earth.
Unique experience: Enjoy an evening of stargazing with state-of-the-art tracking telescopes figuring out constellations and planets on starry Bahamian sky.
Tip: Book a twilight cruise taking you around Ocean Cay onboard the double decker catamaran as you see the ocean come to life at night.
10. Catalina Island – Costa Cruises, Dominican Republic
|Catalina Island-Costa Cruises, Dominican Republic (credit Costa)
|A complete escape from city life – this idyllic island focuses on experiences over an adrenaline rush. The island has endless activities to explore – voyagers can relax on the catamaran, take a boat ride on the Chavon River, discover Dominican traditions by the jeep and visit the nearby villages for memorable souvenir shopping. Catalina Island is for those who seek a relaxed cruise holiday over the hustle and bustle.
Unique Experience: Walk through the underground museum of the Cave of Wonders with over 800 meters of tunnels with native Indian paintings – follow this with a visit to cigar factory.
Tip: Bring in your A-game if you’re participating in the Catalina Marathon challenge that happens every year.
11. Sir Bani Yas – MSC Cruises in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
|Sir Bani Yas– MSC Cruises, Abu Dhabi (credit MSC)
|If you want your luxury holiday fantasy in a unique island destination that serves as a wildlife sanctuary – welcome aboard the MSC Beach Experience on Sir Bani Yas. From thrilling safaris in the Arabian Wildlife Park to exploring the island’s rich heritage and relishing its culinary delights, Sir Bani Yas Island will set an unforgettable experience. From mangrove kayaking to beach horse riding, the island’s wonders will leave you mesmerized. The MSC Beach experience on Sir Bani Yas is a foodie’s paradise too – with a delectable barbecue involving juicy burgers, grilled specialities, fresh salads, pastries, and fruits. Pamper yourself with an array of cocktails, ice-cold beers, or finger food, available at the island’s six bars.
Unique experience: Take an adventurous safari through the nature park, with breathtaking views of wild animals like gazelles, giraffes in their habitat.
Tip: Experience authentic Arabian hospitality on board as you delight in traditional coffee and fresh dates while taking in the spectacular scenery during your sail.
12. Portuguese Island – MSC Cruises in Mozambique
|Portuguese Island – MSC Cruises in Mozambique (credit MSC)
|Nestled between the African coast and the Indian Ocean, Portuguese Island emerges as a pristine jewel on MSC cruises to Southern Africa. This uninhabited oasis within Maputo Bay, shrouded by Inhaca Island, is a haven of untarnished beaches and translucent waters with diverse marine life. You can engage in a variety of activities such as Inhaca Reef Drift Snorkelling, Santa Maria Snorkelling, Sea Kayak Rental, Inflatable Wake Tubing Adventure, Stand-Up Paddle Boarding, and more. You can also seek out secluded bays for a more intimate escape or embark on a traditional dhow to admire the coastline. Also take a stroll along the numerous restaurants, bars, market, and captivating sites like the Marine Museum and a historic lighthouse. Don’t forget to taste the renowned Tipo Tinto rum while basking under beach umbrellas or while playing a game of volleyball.
Unique experience: Explore the extraordinary Inhaca Reef Drift Snorkelling, a unique excursion that showcases stunning reefs known for their rich marine life, including the rare Dugong.
Tip: Take advantage of the thrilling tube ride, accommodating up to six riders, allowing you and your companions to soar over the wake, perform jumps, and create everlasting memories.
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