Harvest Caye Cruise Port

Port of Harvest Caye: An Overview

Harvest Caye, a $50 million purpose-built island developed by Norwegian Cruise Line for its Western Caribbean itineraries, is a 75-acre eco-friendly port comprising two adjoining islands in the Stann Creek and Toledo districts of southern Belize.

Featuring four bars, a zipline, exclusive beachfront villas, a nature center, an outpost of Jimmy Buffett-affiliated LandShark Bar & Grill, a variety of ship-sponsored shore excursion options and one of the largest pools we've ever seen, Harvest Caye offers much that will appeal to visitors.

Less chintzy and more focused on supporting the local economy than other private islands, Harvest Caye shows Norwegian's commitment to Belize by hosting native performances, displaying pieces by Belizean artists and offering space for local businesses to sell their wares in the island's shopping area. Most materials used in constructing the island -- decorative flora for landscaping and hardwoods used for building exteriors -- were also sourced from within the country.

The construction of Harvest Caye, which was nearly four years in the making, employed hundreds of local workers for the building phase, and more than 400 will continue to work on the island in cruise passenger-facing jobs. On days when they aren't working, those employees will be paid to perform various community service projects on the Belizean mainland.

What's also interesting is that Norwegian has created a hybrid that's part port of call and part private island. For example, Norwegian plans to open the island to cruise lines outside the Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings family eventually, and a day on Harvest Caye isn't necessarily an extension of the onboard experience. Passengers will find locals manning the island, rather than ship crew, and most cruisers will have to pay for food and most activities. (Note that this does not apply to Regent passengers; everything is included in their cruise fares, with the exception of beach villas and pool cabanas, which are offered at a discounted rate.) On the other hand, visitors from Norwegian Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises -- all of which visit the island -- can still use their cruise keycards for purchases ashore, and the only shore excursions offered are those booked through a cruise line.

Regardless of how you choose to classify it, Harvest Caye is a clean, easy-to-navigate and beautifully designed island.

Don't Miss

Ziplining: One of the island's most notable structures is a giant white lighthouse, known as the "Flighthouse," which is the launch point for Harvest Caye's zipline. The attraction features two runs, one of which covers a 1,300-foot-long expanse between the tower and the beach. For those who are feeling extra adventurous, there's also a ropes course. Prices are $65 per adult ($55 per child) for ziplining and $29 per person for the ropes course, regardless of age.

Water Activities: Kayaks ($25 per person), paddleboards ($20 per person) and small motorized boats ($75 per adult, $55 per child) are offered for hourly rental at the island's lagoon, which is cordoned off to protect a local manatee population that lives nearby. Children will also enjoy the island's free Splash Zone, a colorful water play structure featuring sprayers and dump buckets.

Nature Preserve: As part of its focus on eco-friendly tourism, Norwegian has added a nature preserve to Harvest Caye. Visitors can walk through the area for free, checking out boa constrictors, scarlet macaws and toucans, as well as a butterfly enclosure that's also home to several dozen iguanas. Norwegian has hired a 25-year veteran naturalist to care for the animals.

Pool: One of the most impressive draws on the island is its gargantuan (and free) pool, featuring a swim-up bar and food service window, as well as in-water seating. The area is surrounded by free sun loungers, and lifeguards are on duty to keep everyone safe. For those looking for exclusive relaxation, 15 private poolside cabanas are available for daily rental.

Beach: Seven acres of pristine beach are great for those craving a bit of sand with their sun. Free to use, the area is staffed with lifeguards, and cruisers can snag any of more than 3,000 complimentary sun loungers. For-fee clamshell loungers are up for grabs, too ($29 for the day). Those hoping to utilize one of 11 private extra-fee beachfront villas will want to book in advance. A beach volleyball court will also be added in front of LandShark, not on the main beach.

Shore Excursions: Shore excursions offered include parasailing and visits to coral reefs, saltwater mangrove estuaries and ancient Mayan temples, among other activities. Most tours will depart from Malacate, Harvest Caye's staging and storage area, located on the Belizean mainland. Passengers booked on those tours will be ferried from Harvest Caye to Malacate to meet their excursion operators. Shore excursion pricing for Norwegian Cruise Line is reasonable, ranging from $49 per adult ($39 per child) for the mangrove estuary tour to $109 per adult ($79 per child) for a visit to Mayan ruins and a working spice farm. Norwegian is working on adding snorkeling and scuba diving excursions to Harvest Caye. A water taxi is also available for $20 roundtrip, allowing passengers to visit the mainland without booking ship-sponsored excursions. The earliest taxi leaves the island at 8 a.m., and the last one returns from the village of Placencia at 2:30 p.m. Private tour operators are not allowed to pick up passengers on Harvest Caye due to Belizean port of entry security regulations.

Cabanas

Cruisers wishing to escape the crowds in exclusive luxury should consider booking one of 11 beachfront villas (including one accessible villa). Each boasts its own living room with high-top table and two chairs, couch, coffee table, two wicker chairs and TV; air conditioning; private bathroom; outdoor shower; a hammock; several outdoor sun loungers; Adirondack chairs on a private swath of beach; and food service. Food isn't included with the private villas, but passengers who book also get access to concierge service; food can be purchased that way from Horse-Eye Jack's Bar & Grill. Prices for daily rentals start from $475 for up to six people.

If you're trying to stay away from the sand but still want a retreat of your very own, opt instead for one of 15 poolside cabanas, starting at $199 for a daily rental.

(Note: Villa and cabana rentals do not include access to for-fee attractions or activities.)

Bars

The island has four main watering holes, all of which have restaurants attached: Manatee Bar, Horse-Eye Jack's, Laughing Bird Bar and LandShark. Additionally, visitors will find a small pool bar, which is located next to LandShark Bar & Grill and will eventually offer self-service machines that passengers can access with their onboard accounts. All serve beer -- LandShark and Belikin, a Belizean brew -- and mixed drinks.

Shopping

Don't expect to find Diamonds International on Harvest Caye. With the exceptions of Black Pearl Harley-Davidson and outposts of Del Sol and Coldwell Banker realty, which are operated by locals, visitors will only find Belizean artists and vendors manning the stores and kiosks of the island's small shopping area. Standalone kiosk space is offered for free to people who reside on mainland Belize and wish to sell their products. Stores are small, ranging from 300 to 500 square feet, and offer a variety of items, including Harvest Caye logo merchandise and duty-free alcohol. Moho Chocolate, one of the stores' tenants, sells the confection and also takes cruisers through the process of making it.

What's for Lunch

Unlike other cruise line islands, Harvest Caye offers no free dining (unless you're calling there on a Regent ship). However, there's no tendering required to get from shore to ship, so it's easier for cruisers to return to the vessel to eat lunch for free before resuming their island fun.

For those wishing to dine ashore, there are four main eateries: Manatee Bar & Grill, Horse-Eye Jack's Bar & Grill and Laughing Bird Bar & Grill, as well as LandShark Bar & Grill, the largest of the venues.

One of Jimmy Buffett's brands, LandShark Bar & Grill on Harvest Caye is operated by two Belizean restaurateurs. The giant building offers both indoor (air-conditioned) seating and open-air high-top dining on a second-story terrace overlooking the island's enormous pool. It also features a swim-up bar and poolside food service window.

LandShark's menu features the usual bar food you'd find at a chain restaurant: chicken wings, onion rings, Philly cheesesteaks, fish tacos, salads, burgers, pulled pork and a small section for kids. The other three venues share a menu, which offers selections like seafood ceviche, quesadillas and nachos, among more standard items like burgers and chicken fingers with fries.

Designed to be reminiscent of Coral Gables' annual street fair, several standalone kiosk areas throughout the island sell snacks and drinks.

Good to Know

The sun and heat can be brutal in Belize, and there's not a lot of shade on Harvest Caye. Although small touches -- mist-blowing fans, shade canopies and even air conditioning -- have been added throughout the island to help with the heat, be sure to bring sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat -- and seek respite indoors during the midday sun if you're prone to burning or overheating.

In addition, it's a decent trek from your docked ship down a long (but mercifully shaded) pier and through the shopping area to the beach -- farther still if you've rented a cabana. Factor in time for getting from place to place on foot, or wait for one of the golf cart shuttles to whisk you from ship to shore.

What Sets It Apart

The biggest difference between Harvest Caye and other purpose-built islands is its commitment to the local economy. It's more of a partnership between Norwegian Cruise Line and the government of Belize than strictly a business venture, which is why food costs extra and beverage packages do not carry over from ship to shore. The venture also aims to give back to the community by volunteering, donating supplies and providing jobs to mainland residents, some of whom commute more than five hours round trip to work on the island.

Another one of Harvest Caye's notable attributes is that it's more wheelchair accessible than other private islands because it's not a tender port. Although the dock is long, shuttles are offered for those with mobility issues. A small fleet of special wheelchairs with large rubber tires is available for those wishing to spend time on the beach, as are lifts for getting into and out of the pool.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

Cruisers visiting Harvest Caye on Norwegian ships can charge island purchases to their onboard accounts. Credit cards and cash may also be used; U.S. and Belizean dollars are both accepted. There are no ATMs on the island. (Note: Norwegian eventually plans to open the island to brands outside the Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings family) and tells us that passengers from those other lines will not be able to use their cruise cards for purchases on Harvest Caye.)

Language

English is the primary language spoken in Belize, including Harvest Caye.