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October 1, 2007

Looking for another excuse to book a Caribbean cruise vacation?

Imagine spending the day on a private island in the gorgeous Caribbean. Pristine beaches, tropical landscapes, island fun and, best of all, fewer crowds make the private islands the most popular ports-of-call for many cruisers.

If your idea of pampering is an air-conditioned, open-air beach cabana with a private butler and chilled appetizers, then Holland America has an island stop for you. Or maybe an active day on the island suits your fancy? Then Royal Caribbean's private island beachside zip lines, volleyball courts and floating aqua parks are ideal. How about family fun, plus a secluded beach just for adults? Disney may have some magic in store for you. There is a private island for everybody!

The following is a rundown of several of the most popular:

Royal Caribbean The cruise line operates two separate, distinct private island getaways. Cruisers taking seven-day trips from Miami visit Labadee, Haiti, a 260-acre peninsula at Pointe Ste. Honore on the mountainous and secluded northern coast of the island. Settled as a trading post hundreds of years ago, the peninsula has been restored exclusively for the use of Royal Caribbean guest. It now features five beaches, secluded coves, nature trails, open-air dining and beachside refreshment bars, artisan markets and more. Water activities include the Dragons Flight Zip Line, a 4,000 foot-long trip over the water of Dragon's Tail Beach, snorkeling, waver runners, kayaks and parasailing. Its Arawak Aqua Park features floating trampolines, inflatable iceberg slides and other fun.

CoCoCay is a 140-acre island located in the Bahamas' Berry Island chain between Freeport and Nassau. It is a tropical oasis for guests taking 3-4 day voyages out of Port Canaveral or Miami. CocoCay features three white sand beaches, coconut palm groves, coral reefs, trails and a sunken replica of Blackbeard's flagship "Queen Anne's Revenge". There are plenty of water activities, including scuba diving and snorkeling, inflatable water slides, a glass bottom boat and Caylana's Aqua Park, featuring a floating sand castle.

Holland America Half Moon Cay, considered by many to be the most beautiful of the cruise lines' private islands, is located about 100 miles south of Nassau, in the Bahamas. Holland America has made a great effort to maintain the natural beauty of the island, with only 45 acres of the 2,500-acre island developed. All parts of the island are accessible, however, via tram and hard-surfaced walkways. Horseback riding is hugely popular. Half Moon Cay was built on a crescent-shaped white sand beach several miles in length. Its protective bay makes for ideal swimming conditions in the calm waters. Holland America has one of the most comprehensive water sports programs of the private islands, where guests can snorkel with stingrays, enjoy kayak lagoon tours or parasail, among other activities. The Half Moon Lagoon Aqua Park is another popular stop. One can also just relax beachside, with a soothing massage and private butler catering to your needs.

Princess Cruise Line Princess Cays is situated about 30 miles from Nassau, at the southern point of tiny Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas. Two-miles wide, it is one of the best snorkeling and dive spots the cruise lines offer, with a coral reef surrounding the island. Its white sand beaches provide for all kinds of water and beach activities are available, including aqua bikes, sailboats, kayaks and more. Guests are welcome to climb the Crow's Nest Tower for panoramic views of the landscape. For those whose goal is to relax, there are plenty of beach umbrellas, tiki huts and hammocks slung between Mangrove trees.

 
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