Battle In The Bahamas: Cruise Lines Vie For Private Island Supremacy

Sailing from a North American port to the Caribbean or Bahamas, odds are a stop at some big ship cruise line’s private island is on the itinerary.  Traditionally considered a ‘day at the beach’, lunch ashore was part of the deal and relaxation the order of the day.  Over the years the private island experience has changed along with the interest of cruise travelers , reflective of an evolving cruise industry.  We expect that. Cruise lines upgrade and remodel older ships from time to time as well. Unexpected: a battle in the Bahamas for ruler of cruise line private island experiences.

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Traditionally considered the gold standard of private islands, Disney Cruise Line’s 55-acre Castaway Cay has had a lot to offer.  Originally featured as the location for Disney’s 1984 film Splash (Tom Hanks rescued by mermaid), Castaway Cay ranks high with families as one might expect.  But other cruise lines are ramping up their efforts to draw family cruising too.  Most recently, Norwegian Cruise Line announced details of the new experience planned for 250-acre Great Stirrup Cay.

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Since 1977, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) as chipped away at enhancing their island in the Bahamas.  Through 2017, a part of cruise line’s $400 million Norwegian Edge investment program will transform a stop at a Great Stirrup Cay to a destination in and of itself.  To be added: new luxurious amenities and adventure activities along with enhanced and expanded dining options aimed to present an upgraded atmosphere for guests visiting the island.  Some renderings from the cruise line give a good idea of what they have in mind for Great Stirrup Cay.


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Norwegian Cruise Line Images

Battle In The Bahamas Brings New Island Experiences

Great Stirrup Cay’s 10 acre beach will soon feature a new half mile oceanside boardwalk that will span the length of the shore with more than 100,000 square feet of pathway, offering easy access to the white sand beaches, as well as access to new shaded areas with benches for relaxation.  A number of other enhancements make getting off the ship at Great Stirrup Cay worth the time if not something to look forward to.

  • Entertainment and Activity Complex– Just adjacent to the beach, guests looking for a more active island experience can visit the new half-acre entertainment and activity complex, featuring a stage for live music, games and entertainers; basketball and volleyball courts, complete with bleachers; ping-pong tables; and a shaded picnic area where families can play board games or relax together.
  • Start Here- A new air-conditioned reception area will serve as the central hub for family-fun where guests can plan their day, reserve activities, rent board games and have access to expansive changing rooms.
  • Zip Line Adventure– a new zip line course featuring more than 1,000 feet of zip line, allowing guests a bird’s eye view of the island and the sea as they soar through the air.  The island’s two parallel zip lines offer the chance for some friendly competition and high-flying races.
  • Underwater Adventure- Those who prefer to take to the sea for exploration can snorkel through the island’s new mystical underwater sculpture garden.  Using a waterproof map as a guide, adventure seekers can discover nautical creatures that tell tales of the deep from beneath the sea.


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Battle In The Bahamas Ramps Up Dining Options

Planned to be more than the standard private island dining experience where lunch means a beach “barbecue” that is really more like the lido deck buffet on the ship, moved ashore, Great Stirrup Cay plans something different. All dining and bar venues will be updated adding new resort-style decking, shaded areas, high-top seating at all bars and family-style seating that will add  50 percent more seating capacity at all dining outlets.

  • Abaco Taco is new complimentary taco bar near the island’s entertainment hub, where guests can create their own favorite tacos.
  • Redesigned Buffet- The included lunch for Norwegian passengers will better as the 8,500-square foot buffet is redesigned to provide faster and more efficient service.  Also added:  an expanded deck surrounding the buffet and new seating areas.
  • LandShark Bar & Grill- leverages NCL’s exclusive partnership with Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, offering a mix of casual dining, drinks and fun with panoramic ocean views and indoor/outdoor seating. Menu items will be available for an additional charge.

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Food Fight Battle In the Bahamas 

Beginning in Summer 2017, a private area of Great Stirrup Cay will feature a secluded beach, oceanview restaurant, spa and sheltered family area.  For a yet-announced fee, 22 air-conditioned private villas available for reservations, ranging in size from studios to two-bedrooms.   Norwegian Cruise Line guests booked onboard in The Haven and Suite accommodations visit for free.

  • Reception Area- The Lagoon experience begins as guests are welcomed by staff at a modern, air-conditioned reception area complete with beach chic décor that features floor to ceiling windows overlooking the area’s expansive private beaches. From the reception building, guests can reserve activities, rent equipment, or relax in the shade on the outdoor terrace or an additional shaded seating area nearby that can be accessed by the lagoon bridge.
  • Swim-Up Bar- The center of the lagoon will feature a floating swim up bar for guests to enjoy their favorite cocktails without ever having to leave the water. Both children and parents will enjoy a shallow, partitioned family beach area along with grassy areas for active play, swing sets, and picnic tables. Those guests celebrating a special occasion or traveling in a large group can reserve an expansive, well-appointed private room for private functions of up to 75 guests, with food and beverage service available.
  • Mandara Spa- Guests looking to refresh and recharge during their private island getaway can indulge in the full range of treatments offered at the lagoon’s luxurious Mandara Spa, with four treatment rooms offering signature spa services.
  • Luxury Beach Villa Dining- All luxury beach villas will also include food and beverage service for guests in the privacy of their villa.

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A Variety Of Luxury Beach Villas

Great Stirrup Cay’s luxury beach villas feature a completely pampered experience from ship to shore. Air-conditioned shuttles will run from the tender marina to the lagoon reception area. Once there, NCL guests will enjoy a choice of three different villa accommodations:

  • Studio villas feature an outdoor terrace, private bathroom and living/dining area, and can accommodate two to four guests.
  • One bedroom villas accommodate four to six guests and feature a bedroom, private bathroom, living and dining areas and outdoor terrace with a hot tub.
  • Two bedroom villas can accommodate up to 10 guests and feature two bedrooms, two private bathrooms, living and dining areas, and an expansive outdoor terrace with a dining area and hot tub.

Exclusive Beach Villa Restaurant– Guests of the lagoon retreat will enjoy the two-story Silver Palm restaurant with complimentary dining plus both indoor and outdoor seating.  A rooftop terrace overlooks the area’s expansive ocean views.

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Booking Norwegian Cruise Line
Guests will have the opportunity to enjoy all areas of the newly-renovated Great Stirrup Cay on a number of Caribbean and Bahamas itineraries available in 2017. For full itinerary details and to book a cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line, contact a travel professional or call Norwegian at 888-NCL-CRUISE.

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Bookmark this post: The Battle In The Bahamas continues as we explore the offerings of other cruise lines as well.  We begin with a quick list of cruise line private islands as well as custom built cruise destinations that serve as the gateway to marvelous travel experiences at a variety of Caribbean locations.

Traditionally associated with a specific brand, sister cruise lines also visit these lovely destinations on occasion as well.