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Private Islands Make Fabulous Memories for Families

Private butlers and other luxury amenities cater to those who want to be pampered, while plenty of island activities appeal to people on the go.

A recent visit to Half Moon Cay, Holland America Line’s private island in the Bahamas, illustrates the cruise travel industry’s ongoing effort to exceed the expectations of its guests. Air-conditioned, open-air beach cabanas are available just a few steps from warm, blue, pristine waters. Private butlers magically appear (for a small fee) from nowhere to fill one’s beverage glass; others prepare hot and chilled appetizers, as well as cool cucumbers to sooth guests’ eyes from the tropical sun.

Is this heaven? Not quite, but these breathtaking private islands surely are memorable for cruisers wanting to enjoy total stress reduction.

Many Caribbean cruises include a stop at some of the Caribbean Sea’s most picturesque islands. Turquoise waters, stunning coral reefs, beautiful beaches, native fauna and wildlife draw the awe of visitors. For the more active crowd, a variety of optional island exploration and water sports activities keep people busy all day long.

Beach umbrellas, cabanas and other shady spots are available to those who want to step out of the sun. Beachside massages sooth the senses. Guests who want privacy are invited to visit many of the islands’ more isolated and secluded beaches. Families are more than welcome, with plenty to do for all ages, including aqua parks, hiking trails and other kid-friendly activities. Many areas on the islands are handicap accessible.

The following is a rundown on the private island ports of call by cruise line:

Costa Cruises- Costa Cruises guests visit Catalina Island, off the coast of the Dominican Republic. It features activities such as volleyball, beach Olympics, snorkeling and massages on the beach. Cruise passengers can also rent jet skis, go for banana-boat rides, or relax on a long beach edged with palm trees. Music and barbecues complete an idyllic day and, for the tourist-minded, visitors can purchase jewelry, beachwear and other souvenirs.

Disney Cruise Line - Disney’s Castaway Cay provides plenty of magic and fun for people of all ages. The three-mile long island, of which only ten percent has been developed, provides plenty of opportunities for guests to enjoy its natural beauty. The island caters to guests in true Disney style. This is the only private island featuring cruise ship-docking capabilities, versus shuttle boats between the ship and island. This allows guests to come and go as they wish. Attractions include the Castaway Family Beach, Serenity Bay for adults, Teen Beach and Scuttle’s Cove for kids, plus numerous water sports, snorkeling and water tour excursions.

Holland America Line - Half Moon Cay, rated the “Best Private Island” by Porthole Cruise Magazine, 8 times now, is located on three mile-long Little San Salvador Island in the Bahamas, of which only two percent has been developed. Half Moon Cay was built on a crescent-shaped white sand beach more than a mile in length. Island attractions include horseback riding, snorkeling with stingrays, personal watercraft tours, kayak lagoon tours, parasailing, massages and the Half Moon Lagoon Aqua Park. Your private butler will attend to virtually any need during your stay, and the island makes a lovely setting for a destination wedding.

MSC Cruises- Many MSC Caribbean cruises stop for the day in Cayo Levantado, off the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic’s Samana Peninsula. As at all the other private islands, passengers can enjoy a beautiful beach, go snorkeling or swimming. There are beach chairs, umbrellas and walking paths, plus tables for an open-air lunch. Travelers also have the option of taking a tour (including jeep safaris and whale-watching).

Unlike the other cruise lines, Cayo Levantado isn’t actually MSC’s private island; it’s owned by a Dominican company. Another caveat: a day at this beach is considered a shore excursion, and passengers are charged a fee to play here.

Norwegian Cruise Line - Travelers set foot on Great Stirrup Cay, located 120 nautical miles east of Fort Lauderdale in the Berry Island chain of the Bahamas. There are two maintained beaches on the island, plus several other more isolated ones. Visitors enjoy native fauna, animals and marine life at every turn. Water sports activities include snorkeling, paddle boats, sailboats, kayaks and parasailing. Special cruise line “Olympic” competitions are frequently held on the island for guests, as well.

Princess Cruise Line - Princess Cays is located on the southern portion of Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas, featuring white-sand beaches and turquoise waters great for snorkeling. Island activities include seaboards, aqua bikes, Hobie Cat and Sunfish sailboats, paddle wheelers, Banana Boats or transparent hull kayaks at the water sports pier. Enjoy a beach barbeque and a full staff of drink servers is ready with cocktails and soda. For those who want to just relax, there are plenty of beach umbrellas, tiki huts and hammocks slung between shady trees.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises- Although not affiliated with Princess, ships of Regent Seven Seas do make stops at Princess Cays on some of their Caribbean itineraries.

Royal Caribbean and Celebrity- Located in the middle of the Caribbean is the secluded 140-acre private island of Coco Cay, reserved exclusively for Royal Caribbean and Celebrity guests. The tropical paradise was recently updated with new aquatic facilities, nature trails and numerous places to relax. A favorite attraction is the new 20,000 square-foot Caylana’s Castle Cove, a fun-filled floating aqua playground. Other popular activities include SeaTrek adventure waverunners, snorkeling and parasailing 400 feet above Coco Cay. The sandy beach and coral reefs of Labadee, their second private island, also is a wonderful place to relax and have fun. Activities include kayaking, snorkeling, parasailing and bike riding. Become a pirate for a day, ride a waverunner, or just lie on the beach and relax.

Whether you are in the planning stages of life, expecting a baby, travelling with children or college students, or planning an event or family reunion, there are plenty of wonderful cruise options and choices. Enjoy! 




 
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