Land ho! Setting sail to an isle in paradise is easier than you think, thanks to these Caribbean getaways owned by cruise lines. Stepping off the ship and directly onto the private island of Castaway Cay was like setting foot in a sunny family paradise. And Disney isn’t the only cruise line offering aquatic entertainment on secluded shores. Most of the big companies have their own private islands: exclusive spots that can only be accessed via select itineraries.
Here, we round up our cruise-ship island favorites, places that offer plenty to do for the whole family. Robinson Crusoe would be impressed.
Disney’s Castaway Cay, Bahamas
Disney is in every detail, from supervised fun at the Scuttles Cove kids’ camp to the self-serve ice cream at Cookies (yum!) and a dance party with Mickey and friends. More family highlights include stingray feedings, bike rentals and even a teen hangout.
Insider Tip: While the kids are entertained by childcare pros, relax on the adults-only beach — with chairside service.
Princess Cruises, Princess Cays, Bahamas
A private oasis at the tip of Eleuthera Island, Princess Cruises’ Bahamas beach retreat is known for its soft sand and gentle surf. Plus, the Pelican’s Perch sand play area is a hit with kids. Bonus: All activities, including kayaking and snorkeling, are half-price for children 12 and under.
Insider Tip: Explore Eleuthera Island’s scenic backroads on a Dune Buggy Adventure down to a pink-sand beach.
Norwegian Cruise Line, Harvest Caye, Bahamas
Norwegian Cruise Line’s resort on the island of Harvest Caye, just off the coast of Belize, offers not only an expansive white-sand beach and a lagoon but also a resort-worthy 15,000-square-foot pool. Adventure seekers should make a beeline to the Flighthouse to try out ziplining or free-fall jumps (not to mention stunning views). Younger kids will enjoy exploring the ropes course.
Insider Tip: Located close to the southern Belize mainland, Harvest Caye offers local cultural excursions.
Holland America, Half Moon Cay, Bahamas
Holland America Line’s private island is the highest rated in the Bahamas and provides an unparalleled natural setting. Almost 98% of the island is undeveloped, and much is a bird sanctuary. Families can jump into the Half Moon Lagoon aqua park and nature lovers can feed stingrays in the massive 700-acre lagoon or explore the island by horse.
Insider Tip: The beach fills up fast, so take advantage of your early-rising kids and get to shore to claim a spot before things get crowded.
Royal Caribbean Cruises, CocoCay, Bahamas
When Royal Caribbean relaunches its Bahamian private island in 2019, it will be filled with “only here” experiences, including a water park with the tallest waterslide in North America, the Caribbean’s largest freshwater pool and an impressive 1,600-foot zip line with the only water landing in the Caribbean. Your family can also travel up, up and away on a balloon ride.
Insider Tip: Live out your tropical daydreams in overwater cabanas at CocoCay in the Bahamas
By Melissa Klurman