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Private Islands of the Cruise Ship Lines

private islandsThere are about 700 islands or cays (usually pronounced as “keys”) in the Bahamas and quite a few are private. Even if you aren’t friends with a billionaire or movie star, you can visit some of these private strips of sand and palm trees by cruising on certain cruise ship lines.

Castaway Cay
Disney Cruise Lines has their Castaway Cay located in the northern Bahamas. There are floating water slides at Pelican Plunge and rental huts along with inner tubes and aqua trikes for fun on the water. Serenity Bay Beach is an adults-only area with open-air massages and a bar which is a welcome respite after days on a Disney boat. They even offer cell phone service. It’s not exactly like a deserted island, but it is Disney.

Coco Cay
Royal Caribbean has Coco Cay, a 140-acre island with a floating aqua park that is surrounded by coral reefs blessed with abundant aquatic life. My first visit to this Cay was years ago and it was pretty much just a place to snorkel, swim and have lunch at an outdoor buffet. Now they also rent out thatched-roof huts with plush chairs, floats, snorkel gear and water bottles provided. You can upgrade your lunch options and afterwards hike the island. Royal Caribbean also has Labadee which is an exclusive peninsula off of Haiti’s northern coast, but most other private cruise line islands are in the Bahamas.

Princess Cay
Princess Cruises has Princess Cay, a 40-acre area on Eleuthera which is located in what are called the Out Islands of the Bahamas. With more than a mile of shoreline, a Junkanoo-style show or dune buggy rides, there is plenty to keep you and the kids occupied. There are air-conditioned bungalows for rent and also a kid-free area for the adults to relax. Tours of the island include ruins from the English Puritan settlers who migrated from Bermuda in the 1640s.

Half Moon Cay
The Holland America Line and Carnival Cruise lines both share Half Moon Cay which has 2 miles of sandy beach and a 5-kilometer running path around the island. You can snorkel with stingrays at Stingray Cove or ride horses along an elevated trail. Only 2 percent of Half Moon Cay is developed while the rest is a reserve for wild birds. There is a glass-bottomed boat ride to see the coral reefs and the inhabitants below, or hiking and biking excursions to see the flora and fauna on the island.

Great Stirrup Cay
Norwegian Cruise Lines purchased Great Stirrup Cay in 1977 which is said to have been inhabited as early as 106 A.D. by the Lucayan Indians. This 250-acre island, also once used by American troops during World War II, offers watercraft tours to the island’s lighthouse, which was originally protested by the locals who thrived on salvaging the shipwrecks that used to occur quite regularly. This means there are abundant sites to snorkel and dive and discover sunken treasures.

A Welcome Stop
Whichever cruise line you pick, these private island retreats are a welcome respite from the port cities on the rest of your trip. You get off the ship for a day but are not hounded by merchants trying to sell you any and every thing. Though they have been developed with water parks, jet-skis and speed boats, they are a relaxing stop on what is already a relaxing vacation.

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