In a bid to create more exclusivity for guests, cruise lines have favoured developing private destinations. Classically this has been in the form of a private island in places like the Bahamas. Through doing this they are able to provide a simple beach day to cruise goers.
Whilst it may appear to many as another day in port visiting a destination, in many ways these places are extensions of the ship, with many of the facilities and staff being utilised from the ship. As with the ships themselves, private destinations have evolved over the years to provide significant facilities from water sports, to roller coasters, zip lines, private premium areas and enhanced kids facilities. So here’s my low down on the best private destinations you can and will be able to visit on a cruise.
Amber Cove, Dominican Republic – Carnival Corp
One of the newest resorts in the Caribbean, Amber Cove was constructed by Carnival Corp to enable its various brands to call at. Located in the Dominican Republic, it was billed as one of the biggest Caribbean port developments in recent years. The resort has various bars, restaurants, shops together with a large pool area, complete with water slides. It also boats a zip line, private cabanas and a massive transport hub where passengers can take a multitude of excursions into the wider island. Amber Cove also plays host to Fathom itineraries, Carnival’s newest brand focussed around voluntourism.
Castaway Cay, Bahamas – Disney Cruise Line
As many people know, Disney don’t do things by halves, so when they entered the cruise market they developed a private resort in the Bahamas for guests to enjoy.
The island has been developed around the theme of a castaway community, with buildings made to look as if they had been improvised from shipwrecks. As with other resorts, a variety of activities are available including water-based and other sports, bicycle hire, as well as various food, drink and shopping establishments. As you would expect, the resort excels at looking after kids, however, there are adult only areas as well.
Harvest Caye, Belize – Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian recently completed a new new resort in Belize in the Western Caribbean. Set within seven acres, Harvest Caye acts as both a destination in itself, or a gateway to see Belize. A new pool area is being developed, together with luxurious cabanas, a 130-foot tall ‘flighthouse’ that will house several aerial activities including, a 3,000-foot zip line, suspension bridges, free fall jumps, rock climbing and a tandem “superman” style zip line. A number of restaurants and bars are also completed and planned, including a joint venture with Jimmy Buffet.
Labadee, Haiti – Royal Caribbean
Labadee is Royal Caribbean’s private resort on the northern part of Haiti and has operated there since 1986. Since 2009 the resort has benefitted from a pier, enabling the biggest cruise ships in the world to berth. As well as beaches and numerous places to unwind (including exclusive cabanas overlooking the bay), the resort benefits from a number of interesting amenities, including a plethora of water sports, a water park, a roller coaster, a kids area and one of the longest zip lines in the world. The zip line is 2,600 feet long and begins atop the resort on a cliff and takes you across the entire length of the resort, skimming the ocean on the way down.
Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, Bahamas – MSC Cruises
In late 2015 it was announced that MSC Cruises had signed a deal with the Bahamas to develop an island for its passengers from December 2017. MSC is investing £200M to redevelop the island into theOcean Cay MSC Marine Reserve and will feature a 2,000 seat amphitheatre, bars, restaurants and as well as multitude of activities. The island will also feature a pavillion for wedding ceremonies to take place, as well as an area exclusively for its suite MSC Yacht Club guests.
MSC aren’t stopping there, and have announced the development of Sir Bari Yan Island in the United Arab Emirates, which will offer a relaxed beach atmosphere from winter 2016.
There are of course a whole host of other private islands and resorts that I’ve not touched on, such as Princess Cays (Princess Cruises), Coco Cay (Royal Caribbean), Great Stirrup Cay (Norwegian Cruise Line) and Half Moon Cay (Holland America Line), all of which offer a similar resort approach.
Images © Marcus Adams, Carnival Corporation, Disney Cruises, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean 2016