Beach scene in Coco Cay

Many cruise lines call at private islands -- cruise line-owned or -leased swaths of land, used exclusively by passengers of those lines -- as part of Bahamas and Caribbean itineraries. While most lines only frequent one private island, Royal Caribbean has two -- Labadee and CocoCay. How can you tell the difference between the islands when you're trying to choose the best cruise itinerary for your vacation? We compare Labadee vs. CocoCay, so you can see which is right for you.

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Beach and water sports equipment

Similarities Between Labadee and CocoCay

CocoCay and Labadee are both leased (rather than owned) by Royal Caribbean from their respective countries. Both are also big on beachy fun, offering water sports, cabana rentals in designated areas, souvenir markets selling local handicrafts and water parks featuring floating trampolines, slides, seesaws and climbing structures. You'll find bars and all-you-can-eat BBQ buffets. On both islands, you can pay for shore excursions, water sports equipment rentals and alcoholic beverages with your onboard account.

Man ziplining over the water in Labadee

Differences Between Labadee and CocoCay

While CocoCay is found in the Bahamas' Berry Islands chain between Freeport and Nassau, Labadee is part of Haiti, located in the Eastern Caribbean. It is also nearly twice the size of CocoCay, featuring five beaches to CocoCay's three (though not all can be used for swimming).

Labadee is equipped with a pier, which means visiting ships can dock right at the island. CocoCay, however, is a tender port, so passengers are shuttled ashore in groups on tender boats. Because of that, calls on CocoCay are subject to cancellation if the seas are too rough.

In addition to their geographical differences, the islands also vary in the types of activities they offer. CocoCay boasts the world's largest inflatable waterslide, hiking trails and a sunken replica of Blackbeard's ship for exploration by snorkelers and divers. Meanwhile, Labadee features an alpine slide and a zipline -- the largest found over water.

Adventure Ocean kids club offers activities for kids on both islands, but while locations vary on Labadee, CocoCay has its own dedicated outpost.

Bars are another area in which the islands differ. While CocoCay has three bars (one on each of its beaches), Labadee has five; all bars on both islands sell the usual variety of mixed and frozen drinks, as well as beer.

Finally, Labadee's beaches are known for being a bit more rocky than those found on CocoCay.

Port of Labadee

CocoCay or Labadee: Bottom Line

Choose an itinerary that includes CocoCay if: you're an avid diver or snorkeler, you can't live without a water park or nature trails, or you prefer a physical kids club location.

Choose an itinerary that includes Labadee if: the Eastern Caribbean is your region of choice or you'd like to make a zipline ride part of your experience ashore.