With an extensive range of destinations offered on a cruise, cruise lines compete for more unique places to visit to ensure cruisers can experience new ports and encourage repeat custom.
The Caribbean is still one of the most popular parts of the world to visit on a cruise, however due to there being larger and more ships visiting these islands cruisers started to worry that these stunning destinations were losing their tranquil paradise feel.
With this in mind cruise lines came up with the perfect business solution and started to invest in their own private islands. The main benefits of these islands is that the cruise line can provide guests with a hassle-free place to enjoy.
Many of the major cruise lines now have a private island they include in their Caribbean itineraries. These islands offer what everyone loves about this part of the world, crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches. Combined with activities, barbecues and the fact that the island can only be accessed by your cruise ship, ensures for a perfectly blissful day.
Private islands have really taken off in the cruise industry and cruisers love them. While most of them offer similar amenities, many boast unique features that give them an edge over the others.
Here are the most popular private islands:
Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line
Set in the crystal clear Bahamian waters it is like a mini Disney World in the middle of the ocean. Disney has only developed less than 10% of the island but in that 10% a stunning island jam-packed with fun activities and adventures for everyone.
You can enjoy an array of exciting activities including kayaking, water sports, snorkeling, stingray interactions and water parks.
Twenty premium furnished cabanas can be hired on Castaway Family Beach (family beach) and Serenity Bay Beach (adult only beach) to have your own exclusive base for the day.
My highlight: In true Disney style the popular Disney characters enjoy time on the private island too and host various beach activities.
Labadee, Royal Caribbean International
A 260 acre private beach located on the northern coast of Haiti, Labadee is one of the most breath-taking private islands. This sun-drenched area is lined with turquoise blue water and sky-scrapping mountains.
Labadee is home to an extensive array of activities, including a zipline, roller-coaster, water park, sand-dune trips, jet-skis, para-sailing, snorkeling and much more.
Almost the whole island is lined with white sandy beach where you can simply sit back and take in the views. When it is time for lunch you do not need to head back to the ship, a huge BBQ will be laid out on the island with everything from grilled meat, salads, pastas and desserts.
The island is completely tourist-oriented that you would not realise it is a part of Haiti, although some locals do put on a Haitian market for guests to purchase handmade souvenirs.
Royal Caribbean recently invested alot of money into Labadee and built a pier to accommodate Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas.
My highlight: My favourite thing I did on Labadee was the zipline. The views when you are at the top are truly breath-taking and my adrenalin has never been pushed so far!
Catalina Island, Costa Cruises
Located off the coast of the Dominican Republic this relaxing paradise is home to a long stretch of picture-perfect beaches with pure white sand and swaying palm trees.
You can choose from a selection of activities from jet skis, banana-boat rides and beach volleyball.
Locals will be showing you how to hack a coconut and of course, sell you the coconut for a few dollars! After you have finished you can take it back to them and they will cut the lining out for you to eat.
My highlight: If you walk all the way down the beach you will come to a quiet secluded beach area where you can totally escape.
Half Moon Cay, Holland America Line
Half Moon Cay is said to be the highest-rated port of call for Holland America fans wanting to cruise the Caribbean. Located on the Little San Salvador Island in the Bahamas, it sits on 65 pristine acres of un-spoilt beach.
This is definitely one of the most picturesque of the private islands and the island is so un-spoiled that the Bahamian National Trust made it an international wild bird preserve.
Miles of powder-soft white sand is lined with crystal clear water that is perfect for swimming and snorkeling in. Water sports, horseback riding, AquaTrax watercraft and deep sea fishing are just come of the unique activities you can enjoy here.
My highlight: Half Moon Cay is the only private island that has a chapel in which you can get married.
Stirrup Cay, Norwegian Cruise Line
This sun-drenched island is part of the Berry Islands in the Bahamas. Norwegian Cruise Line brought the island in 1977 and have developed it over the years into a popular tropical haven.
Like the other private islands, a wide selection of activities are available including snorkeling, jet-skis, para-sailing and the world’s largest water slide.
A complimentary beach BBQ is held at lunch time as well as a selection of bars scattered around the island to grab your favourite cocktail.
Norwegian Cruise Line was the first cruise line to introduce a private island and it has been reported they have splashed out £32 million on a new private island in Belize.
My highlight: You can purchase a range of unique hand-crafted gifts at very low prices from the straw market.
Princess Cays, Princess Cruise Lines
Princess Cays is situated on more than 40 acres and boasts over half a mile of sandy shoreline. Located in the pristine islands of the Bahamas, it offers a tranquil beach bursting with fun amenities.
A local market is laid out for you to purchase local crafts and a large lunch spread will be on offer.
A unique feature on Princess Cays is the Observation Tower where you can relish the spectacular views of this stunning island.
My highlight: Unlike all the other private islands, Princess Cays is partially inhabited, therefore it has its own accessible airport.
CocoCay, Royal Caribbean International
CocoCay is another one of Royal Caribbean’s private islands and also lies perfectly in the Bahamian Sea.
Although smaller than Labadee, it still offers an array of fun activities including water slides, jet-skis and pedalos.
The snorkeling at CocoCay offers some of the best underwater sightings around with a sunken plane wreck that attracts an array of distinctive marine life.
My highlight: My favourite thing to do on CocoCay is to hire a floating beach mat and simply float in the unbelievable crystal clear water.
So why are private islands so appealing?
A private island visit is the making of a fascinating travel story and it is great to tell people you have been somewhere exclusive and somewhere they likely have never been.
A private island will take you to the 'true' Caribbean so you can experience the unique scenery and distinct Caribbean flare without being in a commercialised and busy port.
With something for everyone to do on a private island, the whole family can spend a safe and hassle-free day creating lifelong memories.
From experiencing most of these private islands myself I highly recommend going on a cruise to visit one.
By Sally Grimes
When it was announced that there was going to be a cruise ship built that is longer than four full sized football pitches, five times the size of Titantic and worth more than $1.5 billion, nobody quite believed it. Royal Caribbean are known for pushing boundaries, but how far could they go?
I love a challenge so when asked me if I could do 100 activities onboard Oasis of the Seas in one day, it was a mission I was keen to accept. With such an extensive array of activities onboard, I thought this would be easy but when faced with the biggest ship in the world it was time that was against me?
After my wake-up call, a hot shower and a quick glance at the daily activity schedule (which I folded and put in my pocket for daily referrals!) my day began…
1. Watch the sunrise 6.30am
2. Breakfast on the balcony 6.37am
3. Watch the morning show on TV 7.00am (Tip: Presented by the Cruise Director, this is a great way to get an overview of the days activities)
4. Go for a jog, the jogging track is located on Deck 5 and is 0.43 miles long. 7.16am
5. Sweat it out in the gym 8.00am
6. Speak to the Future Cruise desk about what onboard benefits I can receive if I book my next cruise onboard. 8.30am
7. Stroll through Central Park 8.45am
8. Read about the variety of live plant onboard 8.47am
9. Take a look in the Coach store 8.52am
10. Morning tea and cake 9.00am
11. Join in a trivia 9.20am
12. Walk the length of the ship down the Royal Promenade 9.45am
13. High-five a crew member 9.46am
14. Take a ride in a glass elevator for sweeping views of the ship 9.48am
15. Have a picture with Shrek 9.50am
16. Catch some rays on a sun lounger 9.52am (Tip: If you do like the sun, you can relax on an in-door lounger in the Solarium)
17. Take a dip in the pool 10.20am
18. Watch a pool tournament, such as water polo and volleyball 10.30am
19. Listen to the steel drum band at the pool deck 10.40am
20. Ride the Flowrider surf simulator 10.45am
21. Watch at least one person get wiped out by the flow rider 11.05am
22. Watch the Flowrider show 11.10am
23. Cool down with an ice cream 11.30am
24. Look down at the sea from the top of the ship 11.45am
25. Lunch in the Windjammer 12.00pm
26. Try the famous beef roll in Central park Cafe 12.35pm
27. Tee up for a round of Mini Golf 12.50pm
28. Ride the Zipline 1.05pm
29. Check out a loft suite 1.12pm
30. Walk through the Boardwalk 1.23pm
31. Grab a doughnut from the doughnut stand 1.25pm
32. Make a wish with Zoltan 1.27pm
33. Ride the only carousel at sea 1.30pm
34. Dance with the Johnny Rockets staff 1.36pm
35. Watch an Aquashow, another Royal Caribbean first 1.40pm
36. Try a corn-dog 2.15pm
37. Have a picture by the boy and balloon statue 2.17pm
38. Keep the energy up with a bag of pick'n'mix sweets from the candy store...there's still a long way to go! 2.22pm
39. Walk along the outer decks and spot for other ships on the horizon 2.27pm
40. Play shuffleboard 2.35pm (Tip: If you not know how to play, there is always an American on hand to show you!)
41. Visit the Cupcake Cupboard 2.50pm
42. Name Oasis of the Seas 7 Godmothers at the Guest Services Desk 2.55pm
43. Go shopping! 3.05pm
44. Talk a walk out on the helipad 3.20pm
45. Wine tasting 3.36pm
46. Take out a book from the library 3.45pm
47. Go to an art auction 3.50pm
48. Lace up for some of the only ice-skating at sea 4.00pm
49. Ask for some tips from the professional ice skaters 4.15pm
50. Walk the spiral stairs 4.22pm
51. Watch a live afternoon gameshow 4.25pm
52. Afternoon tea 4.42pm (Tip: My favourite place to grab a tea is at Promenade Cafe on Deck 5)
53. Shoot some hoops in the Basketball Court 4.54pm
54. Climb the Rock climbing wall 5.00pm
55. Try the harder rock climbing wall – if you are brave enough! 5.05pm
56. Watch the belly-flop competition 5.08pm
57. Go to the Spa for a much deserved massage 5.15pm
58. Listen to a health seminar 5.25pm
59. Visit the Internet Café and send an email home 5.36pm
60. Dress to impress for an evening of glamour 5.40pm
61. Watch a parade down the Royal Promenade 5.55pm
62. Have a cocktail 6.00pm (Tip: My favourite place to grab a cocktail is the Pool Bar)
63. Watch the sunset 6.07pm (Tip: Watching the sunset from the helipad is an amazing experience)
64. See a movie on the outdoor movie screen 6.09pm
65. Pre-dinner champagne 6.15pm (Tip: The Champagne Bar is on the Royal Promenade, just in front of the dining room)
66. People watch and look at everyone’s spectacular dresses 6.17pm (Tip: The Royal Promenade is the best place to do this!)
67. Watch the Captains speech 6.16pm
68. Have a picture with the captain 6.21pm
69. Have a formal picture by the ships professional photographer 6.25pm
70. Have dinner in the main dining room 6.30pm (Tip: My favourite is the lobster)
71. Watch a waiter perform a magic trick 6.45pm
72. Try something you have never eaten before 6.47pm (Tip: I tried snails for the first time on Oasis)
73. Meet the head waiter 6.50pm
74. Admire the stars walking through Central park in the evening 7.30pm
75. Take 5 minutes to sit on a bench and listen to the live violinist in Central park 7.35pm
76. Go to a show 7.40pm (Tip: You must go and see the Broadway production of Hairspray)
77. Take a look at every venue in Entertainment Place 8.36pm (Tip: You can check out where you want to go on the next night of your cruise)
78. Roll the dice in the casino 8.39pm
79. Join in a game of Blackjack 8.40pm
80. Listen to live music in Dazzles 8.48pm
81. Ride the Rising Tide Bar 8.52pm
82. Make new friends 8.54pm (Tip: Meeting new people is a great part of a cruise and you can make life-long friends)
83. Join in karaoke 9.05pm
84. Feel at home with a beer in the English pub 9.10pm
85. Watch the Latin dancing in Boleros 9.15pm
86. Walk through the Schooner Bar and smile at the piano man, play it again Sam! 9.19pm
87. Dance in the nightclub 9.23pm
88. Take a peep in Adventure Ocean to see the children enjoying the sleepover parties 9.28pm
89. Go to the Viking Crown Lounge 9.30pm
90. Toast a night cap with friends 9.36pm
91. Get changed out of formal wear and head back out 9.42pm
92. Take a late night dip in the whirlpool 9.50pm
93. Try a new late night cocktail at the pool deck 10.00pm (Tip: My favourite is the frozen Mojito)
94. Dance like no one is watching under the stars 10.10pm
95. Use the way-finder to navigate you way back to your stateroom 10.25pm
96. Order a late snack snack with room service 10.35pm
97. Sit on your balcony and admire the moon's reflection across the dark ocean 11.00pm
98. Make a wish on a shooting star (if you're lucky enough!) 11.30pm
99. Take a shower and change into the Royal Caribbean robe and slippers 11.35pm
100. Go to bed...phew what an incredible day! 11.58pm
So with a full belly, tender feet and a day packed with memories my mission is complete! 100 activities accomplished in just one day onboard the biggest ship in the world.
Would I recommend it? If you want a relaxing time onboard then no, but if you like the thrill of wanting to do as much as you can then yes!
Chelsea from our sales team had a once in a lifetime chance to go on the Rocky Mountaineer this month.
Here’s what she has to tell...
A dream became reality
After booking many customers on the Rocky Mountaineer, I had a strong desire to experience this wonderful trip for myself. My dream came true when I was offered the chance to go along and try it as part of a familiarisation trip for work.
Along with a group of UK travel agents, we spent seven days in Canada courtesy of Rocky Mountaineer. After selling Rocky Mountaineer for over a year, it was amazing to experience it first-hand.
Having worked the Alaska season on board Celebrity Cruises from Vancouver, I was already acquainted with the city, however it was now time to venture further inland.
After a nine hour direct flight from Gatwick on Air Transat I arrived in Vancouver. I was initially dubious about this airline, but I was proved completely wrong. The flight was extremely smooth and the flight attendants were extremely attentive.
During the afternoon we travelled into Downtown Vancouver by catching the sky train. This runs every 10 minutes from the airport directly into the city centre and down to the port.
After spending one day a week here previously, I wandered around the city remembering all the sights and found myself drinking a coffee outside the port, watching the ships and reminiscing about my time at sea.
After tearing myself away from the stunning views I made my way to The Fairmont Airport Hotel. The restaurant, bar and our room had huge windows over-looking the runway so you could watch the planes come and go, it was a perfect stay.
After an early wake-up call we took a short trip top Rocky Mountaineer's privately owned train station.
This train was the last of the season to Calgary. Rocky Mountaineer had invited five wounded service men and patrons of military charities and their families to join the train, a very nice touch I thought. The atmosphere was incredible as families were glowing with pride, it made me feel incredibly proud of our armed forces. After a short speech and a cup of tea it was time to board the train on Silver Leaf travelling from Vancouver to Kamloops.
The carriages are huge and the space you get is incredible. They are airy and bright with large curved picture windows. We had three hostesses in our carriage, who after quick introductions, began serving breakfast.
In Silver Leaf you are served at your seat (also in Red Leaf). It is hot food as opposed to the picnic style food you would receive in Red Leaf. There was coffee, tea, fruit juice, warm scones with jam, fruit salad, Canadian bacon, eggs and potatoes. The amount of food I received was amazing, they just kept presenting me with more delicious treats.
The rain was pouring for the first hour, so the scenery wasn’t the best and with the raindrops on the windows, neither were my pictures! However this did not dampen the experience for one minute.
Once we left the city, it was like we had entered another world. The views were breath-taking as we travelled higher and higher past lakes and through the mountains.
We reached Kamloops with a warm welcome and were transferred to our hotel. If you travel Silver/Gold Leaf, your luggage follows you wherever you go, you do not have to lift a finger. So after a quick change, we were meeting the rest of our group at the Noble Pig.
This brew pub makes their own beer from scratch and their staff make up the crazy names for the new beers too. After our tour of the brewery, our tour guide ordered our food. He ensured we tried some traditional Canadian appetisers such as bacon popcorn, fried pickles and poutine, chips with cheese and gravy (everyone in the group was slightly taken back by this, they’ve obviously never been up north!)
The train stayed in the station overnight as it only travels during daylight hours. The most exciting thing about today was that we were upgraded to Gold Leaf :-)
The Gold Leaf carriage is split into two levels. The top floor is where you will sit for the majority of your journey. The same style seats as Silver Leaf but the carriage has a complete glass domed ceiling for better views.
Where the Gold Leaf differs from the Silver Leaf is the dining. The downstairs cabin is a sit down restaurant with chefs to prepare fresh meals for you. I thought the food was amazing in Silver Leaf, so this was an ultimate luxury for me.
I sat there feeling like a queen as I gazed out the window, admiring the scenery whilst eating smoked salmon and caviar.
The menu was divine and the presentation really proves better than many top restaurants I have been to.
Today's train journey took us from Kamloops to Banff. The higher we climbed, the more beautiful it became. The turquoise lakes spread around the snow-capped mountains were a sight seen to be believed.
Waking up in Banff was like waking up on Christmas day. Banff’s log style cabins are covered in fairy lights and with snow on the ground, it looked truly magical.
We stayed in the Caribou Lodge, which is located in the centre. It’s on the main street and within short walking distance to the area with the bars, restaurants and souvenir shops.
The first stop we visited was the Spiral Tunnels, we had travelled through here on the train the day before.
The next top was the Emerald Lake. The sun was out and the water was an amazing turquoise colour. We sat with our gloves on watching the wildlife and drinking warm maple syrup cider, yum!
Finally came the big part of the day - Lake Louise. The Fairmount Hotel dominates the lower end of the lake and the rest of the area is pure picturesque scenery. We walked down to the end of the lake and back again, taking in the incredible scenery. It was very grand in scale and for that reason I would say that Emerald Lake was more beautiful as it was quaint and silent, but that’s just my opinion!
The great thing about Banff is there is something for everyone. There are plenty of bars, restaurants and shops. The surrounding areas are also home to some great attractions including, Banff Springs, Skiing, and Gondola rides.
We decided to go on the Gondola Tour up Sulphur Mountain. The gondola takes you up to the summit where the views are incredible. You can see everything; lakes, forests and the whole area of Banff nestled in between the mountains.
After a short trip back into town to get souvenirs and a quick bite to eat, it was time for the part I had most been looking forward to – the Helicopter tour!
The rest of my group were a little scared of heights, but I was eager to go. There was only one seat left - next to the pilot, so I jumped in and became co-pilot for the trip! I later realised it was the best seat as I had glass all around me so the views I had were spectacular. This was an excellent way to see the beauty of Canada and an experience I will never forget. I would defiantly recommend this to anyone.
After this trip we continued from Banff onto Calgary were we stayed at the Delta Bow Valley Hotel.
Today we visited Calgary Heritage Park. For those who are not aware, it is a handful of villages that are set up to represent the different eras of Canada's history. It’s all outdoor and has its very own railway. Everyone who works here dresses in full costume and acts as different characters. If you’re travelling with younger children, this is definitely a place to visit.
Our final stop of the day was the Calgary Tower, where you can experience panoramic views over Calgary. There is a revolving restaurant at the top if you fancy a bite to eat with a great view.
After a jam-packed week, today was a little more relaxed. We stayed in the International Suites for our last night, with a final meal and goodbye drinks before we all flew home the following day.
The end of my adventure...
Everything and everyone on this amazing trip has been incredible and it is hard to put into words just how fantastic it was.
The Rocky Mountaineer experience has been nothing short of breath-taking and something everyone should try to experience if they can.
A massive Thank You to Craig, and Rocky Mountaineer for having all of us on board.
If you are inspired to visit this unique areas we have a series of cruise packages which include this incredible journey. See our Rocky Mountaineer deals here.
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