Island Paradise
Published Nov/Dec 2004

Cruise lines offer private islands
where passengers can relax and rejoice.
By Janna Graber

Admit it. There are times when you wish you could get away from it all by moving to your own private island.

Well, cruise passengers actually can–at least for a day.

Each of these cruise lines offers passengers a day of fun in the sun on their very own private island. For many cruisers, this stop is the highlight of the trip. After all, what could be better than sitting on a white-sand beach, drinking a piña colada and soaking in the rays?

All of these islands have pristine shores, swaying palm trees, aquamarine waters and lots of ocean-side adventure. There usually are fees for shore excursions and equipment rental. Every destination offers something a little different for cruise passengers.

CocoCaySM, Bahamas
Royal Caribbean International

Even at first glance, CocoCaySM looks like the quintessential Caribbean hideaway. There are wide stretches of beach in quiet coves, island huts in bright Caribbean pinks and blues, and a colorful straw market offering Bahamian crafts and goods.

Many of the island buildings look brand new–and they are. In 2002, the company invested more than $21 million to turn this 140-acre slip of land into a destination their passengers would never forget.

Nature trails wind through the isle, which is home to wild chickens, peacocks and occasional iguanas. Those seeking solitude will enjoy the hammocks that are hung under coconut trees in quiet locations.

Sea lovers will have plenty of activities to choose from. Hop on a jet ski ($95 for 50 minutes) and speed across waters so clear that you can see orange starfish 20 feet below, or don a snorkel mask and explore life under the sea up close.

For a great view of the island, try your hand at parasailing ($79 per hour). You’ll soar 200–400 feet in the air and maybe even take a cooling dip in the water before returning to the boat.

Children will enjoy Caylana’s Castle Cove and SeaTrek Aqua Park ($15 adults, $10 children). Its floating sand castle and aquatic trampolines are just the things for those who are young at heart.

A staff of 45 people lives on CocoCaySM, and it’s obvious they take pride in keeping the island’s natural beauty in top condition. Their pampering service makes the island experience so pleasurable that you won’t want to leave when dusk falls all too soon.

Castaway Cay, Bahamas
Disney Cruise Line

Disney knows children, so it’s no wonder that they feel right at home on Castaway Cay.

The cruise ship docks right at the island (other cruise ships use tender boats to ferry passengers back and forth), so youngsters can head right down the ship’s ramp and out to explore Castaway Cay.

There is a beach just for families, and Scuttle’s Cove is a safe and fun club for children. Parents need some time on their own, so there is Serenity Bay, a secluded beach for adults.

For a little pampering, have a relaxing massage in the open-air cabanas at the seaside spa. The soft ocean breeze, the sound of the waves and an expert’s soothing touch are just the thing for leaving worries behind.

Game for a little exploration? Then grab a bike (child seats are available for little ones) and hit the trails ($6 per hour). This is, after all, a secluded island getaway, and there are miles of empty shoreline and tropical forest to explore.

If you prefer the water, check out the Walking and Kayak Nature Adventure ($60). Participants walk with a guide through the island’s lush fauna and kayak through an ecologically sensitive mangrove environment. If paddling wears you out, just jump in for a refreshing swim in the crystal clear island waters.

Teens can get into their own adventure on The Wild Side ($35), an excursion that includes snorkeling, biking and kayaking. Families who want to adventure together can try the Seahorse Catamaran Snorkel Adventure ($49 adults, $29 children). This easy 45-minute sail takes you out to calm waters and unspoiled coral reefs. Even younger children will enjoy floating in the turquoise Caribbean Sea with schools of bright-colored fish.

Taha’a Motu Mahana, Society Islands, French Polynesia
Radisson Seven Seas

Visitors to the tiny islet of Motu Mahana (Polynesian for “sunlit island”) are greeted with the sounds of Polynesia. Les Gauguines, an eight-woman song and dance troupe, perform beguiling love songs in their Polynesian tongue while guests enjoy a scrumptious feast under the shade of thatched huts.

After lunch, guests can relax in the sea or wade for yards in the shallow waters while waiters wearing bathing suits offer tropical drinks to those in need of refreshment.

Try out the complimentary water sports like kayaking or snorkeling. For a different experience, board a motorized outrigger canoe and head to the beautiful island lagoon of Taha’a.

Taha’a is known for two things: producing vanilla and black pearls. Guests can take a four-wheel drive tour into the hills to tour the vanilla plantations ($65) or view French Polynesia’s rare jewel, the black pearl, at the Motu Pearl Farm ($64). From there, head to the lagoon for some quality time with the region’s underwater fauna. There is even a small “lagoonarium” where rays, turtles, sharks and fish are enclosed in four different pools.

Half Moon Cay, Bahamas
Holland America

If you’ve ever dreamed of riding horseback in the waves along a beautiful beach, then Half Moon Cay is the place to do it. The 2,400-acre Little San Salvador Island is home to specially trained horses, allowing guests a unique way to explore some of the island’s scenery.

Most of Half Moon Cay is still untouched by man–so unspoiled that the Bahamian National Trust has designated the island a Wild Bird Preserve. The isle’s other 45 acres have been turned into a delightful playground for guests.

Smaller children can don pirate hats and hunt for hidden treasure with Club HAL’s pirate adventure ($24), while teens can relax on their own private beach ($29)–no adults allowed.

There is a West Indies Village reflecting the region’s Spanish, Dutch, English and French colonial themes and a two-mile beach for those who simply want to take a dreamy stroll. Romantics can say “I do” or “I'd do it all over again” at Half Moon Cay’s Spanish-style chapel in an idyllic ocean-side setting.

Those searching for adventure can snorkel ($16) with stingrays in the new stingray lagoon or try to land a big one while deep-sea fishing ($119), a catch-and-release experience.

Like any other port, these private islands have different personalities but one common goal: to give cruise guests something to write home about. You’d better bring extra postcards. •

Janna Graber is a contributor from Golden, Colo.

Top: Passengers lazing away an afternoon floating in the surf at Half Moon Cay. Holland America Line photo

Below: At Castaway Cay, passengers can step off the ship and onto the island’s expansive beach without having to take a tender to shore. Disney Cruise Line photo

Before You Go

For information on a cruise vacation with Royal Caribbean, Disney Cruise Line, Radisson or Holland America, contact your AAA Travel agent.

Order free information through the Reader Service Card online. Click on Reader Resources.

^ to top | previous page

Contents may not be reproduced in whole or in part unless expressly authorized in writing by AAA Traveler Magazines.