Best Cruise Line Private Islands | Top 10

Enjoy a serene beach day on a cruise line private island.


disney castaway cay

Taking your cruise on shore.

Cruise lines are continually trying to differentiate themselves from each other with new-fangled on board amenities like simulated surf rides, bumper cars, bars make completely of ice and even mini-bowling alleys as well as onshore by purchasing or leasing private islands for the exclusive use of the cruise ship patrons.

Offering a stop on a private island makes for good business for cruise lines while offering passengers a nice serene day at the beach without battling the crowds of locals or other cruise ship passengers on that are docked in the same port. Passengers don't have to battle any crowds on the cruise lines private island getaways and are just essentially taking their cruise on shore where a lot of things like food and basic drinks are included.

Cruise line private islands almost always offer fee-based land excursions or beach toys that can be purchased with your key card and of course you can come and go from the island to the ship as you please (though most islands require tender transportation from the ship to the shore). Some cruise line private islands even have little open-air markets for shopping.

So when booking your next cruise vacation consider a cruise line that has a private island destination where you can dip toes in the crystal clear blue waters of the Caribbean, frolic carelessly among soft white-sand beaches, throw on some snorkeling gear and swim with the fishes or just hang out at a beach-side bar while the kids enjoy splashing around safely in a pristine cove and making sand castles under a tropical sun.

CASTAWAY CAY - Disney Cruise Line

This 1,000-acre northern Bahama island is owned by Disney Cruise Line and is configured in true Disney fashion appealing to both adults and children alike. Castaway Cay is an ultra-tidy plethora of splash, sun and sand that has beach areas for families, teens and adults full of Disney flair. Some might even notice that Castaway Cay is actually the spot where Tom Hanks found the mermaid (Daryl Hannah) in the movie "Splash". Castaway Cay is visited by Disney Magic cruises and Disney Wonder cruises and is one of the only cruise line private islands that has an actual dock allowing the passengers to literally step right off the cruise ship and walk to the beach.

CATALINA ISLAND - Costa Cruise Line

Costa Cruise Line passengers on an Eastern Caribbean itinerary will get a chance to spend one day on this relaxing patch of paradise located off the coast of the Dominican Republic. Catalina Island is a protected barrier island where Costa cruisers can enjoy lots of beach activities like snorkeling, volleyball, banana-boat rides; massages on the beach; local island vendors selling authentic coconuts to eat and drink, beachwear, souvenirs and jewelry. Some interesting things to note about Costa Cruise lines Catalina Island is that it was found by Christopher Columbus in 1492, that topless sunbathing is allowed on some of the quieter beach areas and that some Costa itineraries charge a fee for hanging out on the private island for the day.

COCO CAY - Royal Caribbean Cruise Line / Celebrity Cruise Line

This island, formerly known as Little Stirrup Cay, is fairly tiny measuring in at 140 acres and is located among The Bahamas' Berry Islands for the exclusive use of Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruise passengers enjoying Caribbean cruise itineraries. Despite the small size of this private island getaway, Coco Cay has plenty to do for all from just enjoying the three tropical beach areas to water sports to shopping. Older and younger kids will enjoy Coco Cay's aqua park complete with a floating trampoline and a sunken airplane and replica of Blackbeard's Queen Anne's Revenge pirate ship to explore. While younger kids will enjoy the newly built Coco Cay Power Wheels track where they can operate battery-operated mini race cars. 

HALF MOON CAY - Holland America Cruise Line

Half Moon Cay is a two-mile, crescent-shaped stretch of pristine beach situated in the Bahamas that Holland America Cruise Lines docks at on Caribbean cruise and Panama Canal cruise itineraries. With soft sand beaches and beautifully blue inviting waters Half Moon Cay offers fun for the whole family. Water sports consist of deep-sea fishing, stingray adventures, a water park for the kids and teens, windsurfing, snorkeling, scuba diving and kayaking. Other activities on Half Moon Cay consist of horseback riding or hiking along the scenic trails on the rest of the island which is actually an international bird sanctuary. And for couples looking to tie the knot, Half Moon Cay, has it's own wedding chapel.

GREAT STIRRUP CAY - Norwegian Cruises

This historic island, located in the South Caribbean area among the Bahamas Berry Island chain, was once roamed by pirates and is the first ever private island developed by a cruise line as a destination. Norwegian Cruise Lines bought Great Stirrup Cay back in the 1970's and just recently spent $25 million renovating the island. Palm-studded beachfront lounging, massages on the beach, water sports galore, snorkeling adventures, interacting with sting rays, pina colada's, live music and sand-castle building make for a veritable instant party when NCL vessels come into port at Great Stirrup Cay.

CAYO LEVANTADO - MSC Cruise Line

Unlike other cruise line private island destinations Cayo Levantado isn't actually private as it's run by a Dominican company that the MSC cruise line schedules port calls with. And while most other cruise line provided private island port destinations are included in the itinerary, Cayo Levantado is considered a shore excursion, and passengers will have to pay a fee to go ashore here. Paying passengers will encounter white-sand beaches, walking paths, open-air lunch facilities, snorkeling, swimming and tours that include Jeep safaris and whale-watching cruises on this palm-tree-lined rainforest island that is located off the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic's Samana Peninsula.

PRINCESS CAYS - Princess Cruise Line

Passengers who sail with Princess Cruises on Eastern Caribbean and Western Caribbean cruise itineraries will more than likely pay a visit to the cruise lines private island aptly named Princess Cays. This tropical paradise of white-sand beaches, mangroves and turquoise waters is located in the Bahamas on the island of Eleuthera, which is actually partially inhabited with local residents. Princess Cays consists of 40 acres with 1.5 miles of beachfront where lounging, water sports and shopping greet passengers for a great day off the ship for resort style beach days. And since Princess Cays are inhabited passengers get the experience of buying authentic island souvenirs from local vendors and can participate in the annual pineapple festival held every June.

MOTU MAHANA - Paul Gauguin Cruise Line

Palm trees, gentle breezes, crystal-clear waters and strolling Polynesian musicians and singers greet passengers sailing with Paul Gauguin Cruises in the South Seas when they spend a relaxing day on the private island retreat of Motu Mahana. Located in the Society Islands that neighbor Tahiti, the private and romantic islet of Motu Mahana, is perfection with powdery white sand beaches for snorkeling; beach chairs for lounging; picnic tables with umbrellas to enjoy the afternoon BBQ; open bars on land and a floating bar so that you don't have to leave the water; beach front volleyball games; or sessions on coconuts with cold drinks served in coconut shells.

LABADEE - Royal Caribbean Cruise Line

Isolated on the north coast of Haiti is the Royal Caribbean cruise line's 260-acre private island retreat of Labadee. The sun-flooded peninsula of Labadee has five beaches, a pirate-themed water park for kids, a scenic 2,000-plus-foot-long zip-line ride, Haitian artisan markets, live bands leisurely playing local "mento" music at restaurants and bars and plenty of water sport activities to enjoy. And though Labadee is located on the island of Haiti, giving passengers a real glimpse of island culture through folkloric shows and local peddlers selling their trinkets for souvenirs, there are no actual excursions into the heart of Haiti itself. Also, on occasion, RCI's sister brand Celebrity Cruises visits Labadee for a relaxing beach day.

MAHOGANY BEACH - Carnival Cruise Line

Mahogany Beach is actually part of a man-made cruise center, Mahogany Bay, that is co-owned by Carnival Cruise Lines and a Honduran businessman. Mahogany Beach is a 10-acre private beach area that can be accessed by chairlift rides or brief 10-15 hikes from the Mahogany Bay pier. Mahogany Beach has beautiful waters, ample sea-life to discover and plenty of relaxing beach area to soak up the sun with a tasty tropical beverage in hand. Mahogany Beach is a great place to chill and enjoy a nice day of island time where the sun, the surf and the serenity provide a perfect escape from the ship.

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