Don’t overlook those private island port days when looking at a cruise itinerary. These gorgeous private islands are only accessible via cruise ship, and they are worth the trip.
As these destinations are typically owned and operated by the cruise line it’s like an extension of the ship, with included dining/beverage perks and stateroom category rewards carrying onto land.
Private islands offer some of the best beach days and experiences on a cruise ship itinerary, all without the hassle of needing to find transportation.
Here are the best cruise line private islands along with which cruise line operates them and where they are located.
1. Perfect Day at CocoCay (Royal Caribbean)
Perfect Day at CocoCay is Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas, with over 125 acres of land and beaches.
It is consistently rated as one of the best cruise ports in the world by travel publications and websites. In 2022, Perfect Day at CocoCay was named the “Best Private Island” by Cruise Critic.
Perfect Day at CocoCay features Thrill Waterpark, the largest water park in the Caribbean, with 13 water slides, including Daredevil’s Peak, the tallest water slide in North America.
The private island also has Oasis Lagoon, the largest freshwater pool in the Bahamas, with a swim-up bar and in-water loungers. Cruisers to the island can also enjoy a helium balloon that offers stunning views above the island from 450 feet in the air, several bars and lounges, and over 20 dining options.
In January 2024, Perfect Day at CocoCay will introduce its first adults-only escape, Hideaway Beach. This new area of the island will feature private beaches and pools, dedicated bars and dining options, and 20 cabanas.
We estimate that since the name change and complete transformation of the island (from CocoCay to the current name) almost 2 million cruisers— and counting– have visited the island since 2019.
2. Half Moon Cay (Holland America Line)
A very popular and favorite island for many, Half Moon Cay is a private island in the Bahamas that is a port of call for Holland America and Carnival cruise ships.
For 20 straight years Half Moon Cay has been voted the Best Private Island by Porthole Cruise Magazine.
The island has a 1,700-acre interior lagoon and a main beach that is two and a half miles long. Passengers must take tenders to and from the cruise ship, as the island does not have deep water docking.
Half Moon Cay is known for its beautiful white sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, and lush vegetation. The island is also home to a variety of wildlife, including stingrays, sharks, turtles, and birds. Half Moon Cay is a significant nesting area for waterfowl, and the island is committed to sustainability. Only 50 acres of the 2,400-acre island have been developed, and the rest of the island has been preserved in its natural state.
In addition to the unique “land and sea” horseback riding shore excursion, Half Moon Cay offers a variety of other activities for visitors, including swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and biking. Visitors can also rent cabanas and beach villas.
Read more: 16 best things to do at Half Moon Cay
3. Castaway Cay (Disney Cruise Line)
Another highly rated cruise line private island, Castaway Cay is a port of call operated by Disney Cruise Line. Only 55 acres of the 1,000-acre island is developed for cruisers and Disney’s 140+ residents on the island work hard to preserve this pristine location.
Castaway Cay offers something for all visitors, from families to adults. The island features three distinct beach areas: The Family Beach, situated closest to the ship, is perfect for children with water slides, spray cannons, and a snorkeling lagoon. For teenagers and adults, the Sports Beach provides opportunities for beach volleyball and tetherball. Serenity Bay, an adults-only beach, offers a serene atmosphere and open-air cabana massages.
Beyond the beaches, Castaway Cay offers various adult-oriented activities, including fishing charters, jet boat tours, parasailing, bicycle rentals, as well as shopping and dining options. This ensures a well-rounded and enjoyable experience for guests of all ages on the island.
The Disney vibe is real on Castaway Cay and spotting numerous Disney characters around the island will remind you that you’re on a Disney cruise.
4. Ocean Cay Marine Reserve (MSC Cruises)
Although a relatively new private island in the cruise industry, MSC has already created a relaxing paradise on this stretch of land that is really quite unique. From the 20,000 LED-lit lighthouse that offers incredible views of the entire island to the expansive, calm waters of the lagoon, there’s a lot to love about Ocean Cay.
MSC’s Ocean Cay Marine Reserve is a private island paradise in the Bahamas. It is a former industrial sand extraction site that has been transformed into a beautiful and sustainable destination, with a focus on marine conservation and restoration.
The 95-acre island is surrounded by 64 square miles of protected waters, which are home to a variety of marine life, including dolphins, turtles, and rays. Guests can enjoy a variety of water activities, such as snorkeling, diving, and jet skiing, as well as learn about the island’s marine conservation efforts at the Ocean Cay Discovery Center.
Ocean Cay has won numerous awards for its commitment to sustainability and marine conservation, including 2022 Porthole Cruise Readers’ Choice Award for Best Cruise Line Private Island.
Read more: 7 reasons to visit Ocean Cay with MSC
5. Great Stirrup Cay (Norwegian Cruise Line)
Norwegian Cruise Line was the pioneer of private islands for cruisers. The company started the trend when they purchased Great Stirrup Cay in 1977 and turned it into a beach lovers paradise.
Great Stirrup Cay is a 268-acre island located in the Berry Islands of the Bahamas. It is a popular destination for cruise ship passengers, offering a variety of activities and amenities, including swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling, fishing, biking, and playing beach games.
The beach is the highlight of this island but there are some great cabanas and villas for rent as well, with some of the larger villas offering accommodations for up to 16 people, air conditioned rooms, TV’s with on-demand movies and a full private deck.
There’s a lot of history at Great Stirrup Cay too. It was a hideout for pirates in the early 1800’s and later used during the American Civil War. There’s still an 80-ft lighthouse on the island that was built in 1863.
The island is actually right next to Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day at CocoCay and you will be able to see the distinctive waterslides from Great Stirrup Cay.
There is no pier at this island so visiting the island requires taking a tender.
6. Harvest Caye (Norwegian Cruise Line)
Harvest Caye is another private island owned by Norwegian Cruise Line and located in the Stann Creek District of Belize. It is a popular destination for cruise ship passengers, offering a variety of activities and amenities, including swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling, fishing, biking, and shopping.
Harvest Caye is known for its beautiful beaches, clear waters, and lush vegetation. It is also a popular spot for wildlife viewing, as the island is home to a variety of species, including manatees, dolphins, and sea turtles.
The island is 75-acres in size and offers a large pool with a swim-up bar, a salt-water lagoon, and a 7-acre beach that is big enough for every cruise passenger.
Those looking for a more luxurious experience can rent one of the luxurious beachside cabanas that accommodate up to 6 guests and feature concierge food and beverage service, lounge chairs, private bathrooms, and air conditioning, with access to golf carts for easy transportation around the island.
For thrill-seekers, there is The Flighthouse, a thrilling 136-foot high venue for aerial activities featuring 3,000 feet of zip lining across the island, quick jumps, and an observation deck with mainland views.
Watersports enthusiasts can enjoy kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, and electric float boats in the salt water lagoon. Shoppers can browse the expansive shopping village featuring popular name-brand retailers and local Belizean crafts. Other activities include visiting the butterfly house, zip lining, and hiking the nature trail.
7. Princess Cays (Princess Cruises)
40 acres of land make up Princess Cays which is at the southern tip of Eleuthera, Bahamas. So, technically this is not an entire island but part of a larger 176 sq. mile island.
Owned and operated by Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cays is a port of call for both Princess Cruises and Carnival Cruise Line ships. It is only a short 15 miles from the cruise company’s other popular private island at Half Moon Cay.
Princess Cays is known for its beautiful beaches, clear waters, and lush vegetation. It is also a popular spot for birdwatching, as the island is home to a variety of species, including the Bahama swallow, the Bahama woodstar, and the Bahama nuthatch.
In addition to its natural beauty, Princess Cays also offers a variety of activities and amenities for visitors. Guests can enjoy a variety of water sports, such as snorkeling, diving, and kayaking.
8. Motu Mahana (Paul Gauguin Cruises)
Motu Mahana is a 4-acre private island paradise in the South Pacific owned by Paul Gauguin Cruises. Located just off the coast of Taha’a, Motu Mahana is a secluded oasis with pristine white-sand beaches and the crystal-clear waters of French Polynesia.
Guests on Paul Gauguin cruises will often spend more than one day in port and can participate in activities such as kayaking, snorkeling, and beach volleyball, or just enjoy an overwater massage in the relaxing atmosphere.
With no shopping centers and commercialized spaces, guests can enjoy more relaxing surroundings, and learn a few things like how to open a coconut or tie a pareo.
9. Catalina Island (Costa Cruises)
Just over a mile from the mainland of the Dominican Republic lies the 2,368 acre island of Catalina Island, or “Isla Catalina” in Spanish.
Costa Cruises has a private beach on the island and uses a tender to transport passengers as there is no pier for cruise ships.
The island stays relatively quiet and peaceful, as there are no motorized vehicles allowed. Playa de la Isla Catalina offers a stretch of sandy beach that is several thousand feet long, and the area is notorious for snorkeling and scuba diving with popular sites like “The Wall” and “The Aquarium” just off the coast.
10. Portugese Island (MSC Cruises)
Located between the African coast and the Indian Ocean, Portuguese Island is a charming spot often visited on MSC cruises to Southern Africa. This small (500-acre), uninhabited island rests on the outer edge of Maputo Bay, near Mozambique’s capital. It shares the bay with the upscale Inhaca Island, known for its luxurious resorts.
During your vacation, take time to explore this six-kilometer-long island. A leisurely one-hour walk on its sandy shores, which can get quite hot during midday (so open sandals are a good choice), allows you to enjoy the tranquil surroundings with only the soothing blue waters and the lush greenery as your companions.
Cruise Line Private Beach Areas
Most of the above are actual islands, but some cruise lines offer private beach getaways that are often confused as private islands. They offer much of the same type of experience with pristine beaches, loungers with umbrellas, and plenty of included food throughout.
These areas are only accessible if you’re a cruise passenger and cruise lines keep them in pristine condition.
The below cruise ports offer private beaches with a resort feel that are much like a private island experience.
Labadee, Haiti (Royal Caribbean)
Labadee is a 260-acrea piece of land located on the northern coast of Haiti. It is completely fenced off from the rest of the country and used exclusively for cruise ship guests.
Royal Caribbean, which has a lease on the area until 2050, and sister cruise line, Celebrity Cruises both use the cruise port as a private destination.
It is a popular cruise ship destination, known for its stunning beaches, crystal-clear waters, and lush tropical vegetation. Labadee offers a variety of activities for visitors, including swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling, diving, zip-lining, and shopping.
One of the best-known attractions at Labadee is the zip-line, Dragon’s Breath, which runs down from the top of a mountain at speeds of 40-50mph.
The Beach Club at Bimini (Virgin Voyages)
While other cruise lines now also offer sailings to Bimini on their itineraries, only Virgin Voyages offers The Beach Club at Bimini, a 4.5-acre destination complete with a lagoon-style pool, loungers, and eateries.
The Beach Club is a great place to relax and unwind on your Virgin Voyages cruise. You can spend your day swimming, sunbathing, reading, enjoying a beverage, or enjoying one of the many activities offered. And don’t forget to try the local food! The Beach Club’s food groves serve up delicious dishes like conch & mango salad and lechon asado on Bimini bread.
Read more: 12 best things to do in Bimini on a cruise
Amber Cove (Carnival)
Amber Cove is a cruise port in the Dominican Republic, located in the province of Puerto Plata on the north coast of the island. It is a relatively new port, having opened in 2015, but it has quickly become one of the most popular cruise destinations in the Caribbean.
The 30-acre destination is exclusively offered for guests of Carnival Corporation cruise ships—including Carnival, Princess, and Holland America — and is designed to accommodate two cruise ships at once.
Visitors receive free lounge chairs, hammocks, and access to pools, along with various complimentary activities. There’s also a spot for taking photos with the cruise ship in the background.
Amber Cove is divided into two main areas: the waterfront Welcome Center Marketplace and the Aqua Zone. The shopping area has shops, craft stalls, restaurants, and bars. The Aqua Zone features three pools connected by a river with pedestrian bridges.
Read more: Best things to do in Amber Cove
Mahogany Bay (Carnival)
Mahogany Bay is another private destination that some confuse as a private island. This private resort is part of Roatan, Honduras and is used exclusively for Carnival owned cruise lines.
Once docked in port, cruisers have the choice to take a chairlift ride to the beach or walk a nature path with great photo ops of the ship along the way. The beach is very popular and has plenty of natural shade for loungers in addition to umbrellas and clamshells for beating the heat.
There is some great coral in the area for snorkeling too, and a long pier at the end of the beach with a lifeguard for those who want to check out the vibrant colors underwater.
There’s also an impressive shopping center with plenty of opportunities to pick up trinkets and souvenirs, along locally made crafts.
Future cruise line private islands:
Lighthouse Point (Disney Cruise Line) is a secluded beach retreat on the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas. It is scheduled to open in summer 2024 and will offer guests a chance to experience the natural beauty of the Bahamas, as well as Disney’s signature storytelling and guest service. There will also be a water play area for kids of all ages, and a Bahamian art and culture pavilion where guests can learn about the local culture. For dining, there will be a quick-service restaurant and a character dining experience.
Perfect Day at Lelepa (Royal Caribbean) is a new private island destination currently under development in Vanuatu, South Pacific. It is scheduled to open in 2025 and will offer guests a unique and immersive experience, focusing on the natural beauty of the island and the culture of Vanuatu. Guests will be able to choose from a variety of beaches, including secluded coves and family-friendly stretches of sand. There will also be a water park with slides, pools, and other attractions, as well as a zip line that offers stunning views of the island.
Celebration Key (Carnival Cruise Line) is a new private island destination currently under development in the Bahamas. It is scheduled to open in 2026 and will offer guests a variety of activities and amenities, including a family beach with white sand and calm waters, a water park with slides, pools, and other attractions, a variety of dining options, a shopping village, and a variety of shore excursions, such as snorkeling, fishing, and jet skiing.