Half Moon Cay

Private I’s

When cruise lines pioneered private islands as ports of call on Caribbean and Bahamas itineraries decades ago, they were an instant hit. They’ve been upgraded with new facilities and activities through the years, but still consistently earn high satisfaction ratings on guests’ comment cards.

Many fellow passengers tell me the private island stop was the highlight of the cruise for them. Some spend their entire time in these idyllic, almost-heaven enclaves taking a dip in the calm, aquamarine waters; others, like me, find that the more activities they participate in during their private island call, the more they enjoy the experience. And there are plenty to choose from!

When it comes to the activities at the cruise lines’ exclusive beaches in the Bahamas, it’s not easy to choose just five favorites — but duty calls.

Renting a Cabana on Private Islands

Private Islands

Guests at Castaway Cay (Diana Zalucky, photographer)

Definitely a splurge, but if you’ve always dreamed of a little home by the sea, this is your chance to experience it … if only for one day. We’ve rented a cabana on Disney Cruise Line’s Castaway Cay while on three different Disney cruises. At first our eyes popped out like those of panic-stricken cartoon characters when we saw the cost — but once we considered the price included extras like snorkel-equipment rental, bike rental and floats, complimentary soft drinks and fresh fruit, sunscreen, a safe, private hammock, shower, and a cabana butler at our beck and call, it seemed a good value. Cabanas are 235 square feet and furnished with a sofa, chairs and tables, a terrace with canopy, two lounge chairs with thick cushions, a closet, and ceiling fan. We spent part of the day swimming, snorkeling, and enjoying the Pelican Plunge water slides, and part riding along the nice, wide bike trails that Disney designs with such relics as the “wreckage” of an abandoned airplane. There is also a lookout tower we climbed for views of the island.

RELATED: Idyllic Escapes. Cruise lines’ private islands offer perfect beach days

Tip: Lower cabana numbers in the family beach are closer to the Cookies Too barbecue and have good views of the ship at the pier. Higher cabana numbers are in a quiet location with a longer walk to restrooms and the barbecue.

Horseback Riding

At Half Moon Cay — Holland America Line’s gorgeous private island that marked its 20th anniversary in 2017 — a recipe for a perfect day may include the horseback-riding excursion that takes participants on winding trails to explore the island … and, ultimately, the sea, as horses enjoy a swim along the beach. After the ride, enjoy your own dip in the crystalline waters of the beach and sip something tall and cool while drinking in the island scenery to the tunes of calypso music. For a finishing touch, you can feast on everyone’s favorite crustacean at Half Moon Cay’s Lobster Shack.

Tip: You can enjoy a snack, or lunch if you prefer, at….

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By Georgina Cruz


Now in its 25th year, Porthole Cruise and Travel Magazine is published bi-monthly and available worldwide through digital subscription. It offers the latest news in cruise and travel, with in-depth features on voyages, new ships, the best destinations, readers' picks, onboard cuisine, entertainment, and more!