The Most Breath-Taking Private Islands Owned by Cruise Lines


Lounging by the pool, sleeping off a delicious lunch, with a perfectly-mixed daiquiri in your hand, you’ll probably be hard-pressed to think of anything that could make cruise travel better. As always though, cruise lines have somehow managed it. Instead of dropping you off at a beach port and leaving you to fight for deckchairs with the inhabitants of nearby hotels, several cruise lines have decided to invest in their own paradise islands just for you. Norwegian Cruise Line started the trend way back in the 70s, when they bought Great Stirrup Cay in the Caribbean and turned it into a private destination for their guests.

Since then, several cruise lines have followed in their footsteps, buying tiny jewel-coloured islands surrounded by azure waters and turning them into your dream cruise excursion. Ships usually dock in the morning and leave in the late afternoon, giving you chance to enjoy a barbeque on the beach for lunch, grab a mojito from one of the bars, or even try out some water sports. Most activities can be paid for with your on-shop card, so it’s basically like being on the ship, but with acres of sandy beach to sip that daiquiri on.

Young tanned woman girl lies on the beach with coconut on white sand by the tropical turquoise waters

From CocoCay to Motu Mahana, we’ve rounded up the most beautiful paradise islands owned exclusively by cruise lines, so you can make sure that a few hours laid on the beach in one of these private stretches of paradise is on your cruise itinerary.

Ocean Cay, Bahamas – MSC Cruises

Ocean Cay is a brand-new addition to MSC Cruises’ Bahamas itineraries, so new in fact that the first ship hasn’t even docked there yet! Set to welcome ships from December 2017, Ocean Cay is set to be a cruise line private island like no other. In addition to thousands of feet of white sand, a zipline, an inland lagoon, and a spa, it will also have nightlife. MSC are building a 2,000-seat amphitheatre and an array of bars and restaurants. The island will even have a wedding pavilion, so if you’ve always dreamed of a paradise wedding and a honeymoon cruising around the Bahamas, why not combine the two.

Harvest Caye, Belize – Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian’s newest private island opened in November 2016 and although it acts as a launch pad for excursions to the mainland, it’s little surprise that so many people opt to stay here for the day instead. The seven acres of sandy white beach boast 10 private villas and the 15,000-square foot swimming pool has a swim up bar so you can make sure your glass is never empty. If you’ve had too much relaxation, you can liven things up by visiting the towering Flighthouse, where you can zoom down ziplines, soar down free-fall jumps, and teeter along suspension bridges. The island’s aviary is also home to a variety of stunning birds and operates a conservation breed-and-release programme for scarlet macaws.

woman basket weaving near the beach

Motu Mahana, French Polynesia – Paul Gauguin Cruises

Some private cruise line islands may not focus on culture so much as relaxation, but that’s not the case at all with Paul Gauguin’s Motu Mahana. You’ll get off the ship and step into a paradise slice of Polynesia, with Tahitian singers and dancers greeting you as you disembark. You can learn a little more about the culture by taking a pareo-tying or basket-weaving class, or even discovering how to make local delicacies like poisson cru. One of the real stand-out features of the island however, is the unbelievably clear blue ocean that surrounds it. To help you make the most of it, Paul Gauguin have created a floating bar right in the sea, so you can swim up for a delicious refreshment without even leaving the water.

CocoCay, Bahamas – Royal Caribbean

CocoCay is one of the easiest private islands to navigate, with names such as Watersports Beach and Snorkel Beach clearly signposting what activities can be found around the island. Only 140 acres in total, the island has six bars and one of the largest floating aqua parks in the Bahamas. If you’re looking for some excitement, try out the 40-foot waterslide right by the beach. Relaxation is the name of the game on CocoCay, so grab yourself a cocktail and head to Barefoot Beach, which tends to be the calmest of the island’s sands. Shaded hammocks are in high demand on this tiny island, so book an early tender and claim one quick.

couple in snorkeling masks dive deep underwater with tropical fishes in coral reef sea pool. Travel lifestyle, outdoor water sport adventure, swimming lessons on summer beach holiday

Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas – Norwegian Cruise Line

Great Stirrup Cay has been on the receiving end of a massive $25 million investment, so look forward to a massive beach area, private cabanas, and a massive choice of restaurants. Combined with Norwegian’s fleet-wide Edge refurbishments, you can expect an incredibly high level of cuisine and accommodation. If you prefer to break up long days at the beach with a little leg-stretch, head along the nature trail to the south side of the island, where you’ll find a working lighthouse that’s been keeping ships safe near the island for over 100 years.

Castaway Cay, Bahamas – Disney Cruise Line

Just as you’d expect from Disney, Castaway Cay has plenty to keep kids of all ages entertained. There’s a massive floating water slide, plenty of water-balloon battles, and characters from all your favourite films. You can even take the kids on one of the snorkelling trails to see an underwater Mickey statue and a replica of the submarine from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Alternatively, you can leave the kids to have fun at one of the supervised activity centres and enjoy some down time at the adults-only Serenity Bay beach.

If a trip to one of these idyllic private islands sounds exactly like your dream holiday, why not book one of Cruise1st’s amazing deals on a cruise that calls there? Browse the collection of itineraries online or call our friendly sales team on 0808 2746 777.

The Most Breath-Taking Private Islands Owned by Cruise Lines
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The Most Breath-Taking Private Islands Owned by Cruise Lines
We’ve rounded up the most beautiful paradise islands owned exclusively by cruise lines, to ensure that you won't miss out on these idyllic beaches.

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Claire has worked in the travel industry since leaving college in 1994. One of this blog's most regular contributors, Claire covers cruise news and industry trends.

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