Caribbean cruises offer a chance to get away to sandy beaches and exotic places to enjoy time in the sunshine, playing and relaxing.
Several of the large cruise lines operate their own private Caribbean beach destinations that put all you want right in one place, so you can simply step off your ship and right into the fun.
Disney Cruise Line’s Castaway Cay
Where: Castaway Cay is located in the Abaco Islands chain in the northern Bahamas.
What’s There: Disney ships dock at a pier instead of tendering passengers ashore, and a shuttle service helps passengers get from the pier and around the island. Castaway Cay features beaches, lagoons for swimming and snorkeling, water play areas, scenic walking trails, open-air barbecue spots, and shops. Plus, families will enjoy the Disney character greetings and the dance party with Lilo and Stitch. Not interested in the characters and kids? You can relax on the island’s adults-only areas, as well.
Cool Tips: Disney counselors can provide supervision for cruisers ages 3 to 12 at the island kid’s club, Scuttle’s Cove. Runners will want to participate in the Castaway Cay 5K fun race that takes place on a designated route on the island on the morning of your ship’s visit.
Carnival Cruise Line’s Amber Cove
Where: Amber Cove is located in the very northern part of the Dominican Republic, in Puerto Plata.
What’s There: Up to two ships can dock at the pier at Amber Cove, which is a full-service port area. Passengers can go off on tours and activities away from Amber Cove or choose to spend their time enjoying the facilities. The port area is decked out with hillside and overwater bungalows for rent, a large swimming pool with swim-up bar and a lazy river, splash areas, zip lines, waterslides, and water sports rentals. Amber Cove also features shops, restaurants, and bars.
Cool Tips: The pool has plenty of loungers available, and you get excellent food and drink service there, so you can just relax and swim all day. Or head up the hill to the SkyBar for absolutely stunning 360-degree views of the port, sea and surrounding hills.
Holland America Line’s Half Moon Cay
Where: Half Moon Cay is a small island located in the eastern Bahamas, about 100 miles southeast of Nassau.
What’s There: You can rent private cabanas for your beach day. Cruisers tender ashore. The island features a horse farm and stables. This offers the chance for a fun excursion during which you ride on trails, along the beach and even splash through the water on horseback. Other activities include a stingray encounter, kayaking, bike rentals, basketball court, and playground. A barbecue lunch is offered at a pavilion on the island.
Cool Tips: Bring your own snorkel gear or rent a set on the island and walk down the beach away from the crowds all the way to the point for some excellent snorkeling. If the waters are calm enough, you can get out to a small wreck and spot all kinds of tropical fish.
MSC Cruises’ Ocean Cay Marine Reserve
Where: Ocean Cay is the biggest private cruise resort, located just 65 miles from Miami on an island in the Bahamas.
What’s There: The 95-acre resort with a ship pier was made by rehabilitating a former sand-mining facility. It has more than four miles of beaches, as well as pristine lagoons, a food court, cabanas, shops, and a spa. Activities include shipwreck snorkeling, sunset cruises, and kayak tours.
Cool Tips: Your onboard internet package also works on Ocean Cay. MSC also offers drinks packages for your day in Ocean Cay, and you save 15 percent if you book online ahead of your cruise.
Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day at Coco Cay
Where: Coco Cay is an island in the Bahamas, located about 55 miles north of Nassau.
What’s There: The resort is essentially an amusement park for cruisers. The sprawling facility was given a makeover in 2019 and features a waterpark, “Up, Up and Away” balloon ride, the largest freshwater pool in the Bahamas, a wave pool, the tallest waterslide in North America and ziplines. You can book overwater cabanas and eat at five complimentary dining venues. Ships dock at a pier.
Cool Tips: Your internet and drinks packages also work when you are on the island. Use the tram services that run every 15 minutes and stops at five destinations around Coco Cay.
Norwegian Cruise Line’s Harvest Caye
Where: Harvest Caye is an island located in southern Belize, a beautiful Central American country in the Western Caribbean.
What’s There: Norwegian Cruise Line’s facility offers private cabanas to rent, a large pool area with swim-up bar, The Flighthouse zipline adventure course, a saltwater lagoon for watersports like kayaking and paddleboarding, shops and restaurants.
Cool Tips: Ships dock at Harvest Caye, instead of tendering, and there is no included buffet lunch on the island. Some cruisers like to head back onto the ship to take advantage of the complimentary dining onboard. The port also offers a chance for a variety of shore excursions that take you to explore on the mainland of Belize.
Royal Caribbean’s Labadee
Where: Labadee is located on the northern coast of Haiti.
What’s There: The private beach destination has a pier for the ship to dock. Attractions include numerous beach areas, private cabanas, the Dragon’s Tail coaster ride and the longest overwater zip line, the Dragon’s Breath. Labadee also features three venues offering included barbecue lunches, bars (drinks packages work at the resort) and the Arawak Aqua Park with the Dragon Splash waterslide.
Cool Tips: Wade or swim over to the small Adrenaline Floating Bar set up in the lagoon area that the ziplines fly over. It’s a great spot to enjoy the water and views back to the shoreline. Check out the Artisan Market and Artisan Village shopping areas for hand-made souvenirs from local vendors. Bring cash if you want to buy something.
Princess Cruise Line’s Princess Cays
Where: Princess Cays is located on the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas.
What’s There: Passengers are taken ashore by tender at this destination, which offers an included beach barbecue-style lunch, colorful cabanas for rent and an observation tower. Activities include snorkeling, stingray encounters, coastal cruises, and kayak tours. You also will find a spacious beach with loungers, craft markets and the opportunities for other water activities like banana boat rides, floats, seaboards, and aqua chairs.
Cool Tips: Get off your ship early to get ashore to choose your preferred lounger (shade or sun). Bring water shoes if you have sensitive feet, as the entry into the water from the shore can be a bit rocky.
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