When choosing a Caribbean cruise you may well come across some Family Island you never even knew existed. Princess Cays, Labadee and CocoCay are all examples, and they all have one thing in common; they are used exclusively by the cruise lines who own them. So, forget busy ports, hassling street vendors and uncertain territory, and arrive in style at your own private island instead!
The majority of these islands are far too small for locals to reside in, and therefore have been leased out to the cruise companies, providing an exclusive getaway for cruise passengers and a valuable income for the local governments. The cruise lines have transformed the once “dead land” into their own mini paradise islands.
Typically situated in the Bahamas, these islands feature regularly on many Caribbean itineraries. Often reached by tender only, the islands lie uninhabited out in the middle of the ocean, waiting to indulge the lucky passengers who step ashore.
If you are lucky enough to visit a private island as a port of call, the real luxury is having the freedom to make the day as relaxing or as active as you want it to be. Whether floating out across the bluey-green coral reefs takes your fancy, or even parasailing, it’s all on offer. Whatever you choose, a day in paradise can be surprisingly tiresome, so a big buffet style beach barbeque usually comes as standard.
Royal Caribbean comes out top in the owners’ stake with access to two of its very own islands, Labadee and CocoCay. They are also pretty much the only cruise company to have ownership of an island outside of the Bahamas.
Of all the islands, Labadee is one of the most popular. Situated on the north coast of Hispaniola, Labadee is part of a larger, inhabited island, occupied by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Labadee boasts 260 acres of beautiful beaches, exotic foliage and coral reefs bordered by contrasting mountain slopes.
Land is reached by tender (an accessible small ship to transfer you to the shore when waters are shallow) which allows for an impressive and truly unique perspective of the cruise ship. Once ashore, Royal Caribbean have provided an abundance of activities and tours, including, kayaking, parasailing and jet ski hire – allowing guests to take a tour down the coast of the island – or, for the less adventurous, floating beach mats (great for both sunbathing, and floating out to sea on!), snorkeling around the tropical reefs and shopping for beautiful handmade local goods. Kids will be a million miles from boredom with an Aqua Park, featuring trampolines and inflatable slides.
CocoCay is Royals second offering, a small, secluded island situated around 50 miles from Nassau, encompassing 140 acres of Bahamian land. Again reached by tender, the island has recently undergone a huge renovation providing an improved guest experience. As CocoCay is an isolated island, the only people occupying it will be guests from the ship and staff; this creating both a relaxing and safe environment.
CocoCay features much of the same activities as its sister island, including the Aqua Park, jet skis and opportunities to parasail and kayak, but in addition, invites guests to snorkel out to sea to explore both a ship and plane wreck, which is not to be missed – if you are brave enough! To wash away the salt water a must is to sample either a “Coco Loco” or “Labaduzee” one of the islands signature cocktails.