Since the 1990s, cruise lines have been investing in land-based private islands that allow them to offer passengers exclusive beach time as an extension of the onboard experience. As cruise lines continue to build out new exclusive destinations and upgrade their longtime island enclaves, it can be difficult to know which lines are associated with which swaths of land. Check out our cruise line private islands guide below.
Castaway Cay is an ultra-tidy, 1,000-acre splash of sun and sand located in the northern Bahamas. Owned by the Walt Disney Company, the island is used exclusively for Disney passengers -- though alert cinephiles might also remember it as the spot where Tom Hanks finds his mermaid (Daryl Hannah) in "Splash."
In 1997, Holland America Line purchased Little San Salvador from its previous owners for $6 million. Today, the 2,400-acre island is known as Half Moon Cay and serves as a private retreat for passengers on the line's Caribbean and Panama Canal sailings. Carnival ships also make use of the port.
Perfect Day at CocoCay, formerly Little Stirrup Cay, is a Bahamian island located between the popular cruise ports of Freeport and Nassau. In 1990, Royal Caribbean started leasing the 140-acre plot of land, which features beaches, shopping venues and activities exclusively for passengers sailing with Royal Caribbean or sister line Celebrity Cruises.
Norwegian Cruise Line's Great Stirrup Cay -- located in the Bahamas' Berry Island chain, 130 nautical miles due east of Fort Lauderdale -- is a 250-acre island. The cay features dining and bar areas, private beachfront cabanas, a straw market, a kid-friendly Aqua Park and more.
Harvest Caye opened in 2016 and represents a partnership between the cruise line and the government of Belize, which owns the island. It serves as a private outpost for Norwegian, Oceania and Regent passengers cruising through the Western Caribbean. While Harvest Caye has typical private-island amenities like beachfront villas (and unique additions like a nature center and an enormous pool), one notable difference between the island and other private islands is that there is no free buffet lunch ashore. Ships dock rather than tender, so it's easy for cruisers to head back onboard for lunch.
Royal Caribbean's Labadee is a 260-acre private beach resort carved out of Haiti's rolling, densely forested north coast. A typical day in port might include snorkeling, filling up a plate or two at the all-you-can eat barbecue, zipping across the water on the 2,600-foot-long Dragon's Breath Flight Line or snoozing soundly in a beach chair.
Exclusive to Princess Cruises passengers on Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries since 1992, Princess Cays -- located 70 miles east of Nassau, on the southern tip of the island of Eleuthera -- comprises 40 acres that offer more than 1.5 miles of white-sand beaches, food, water sports and even shopping.
Updated October 10, 2019