Pros and Cons of Cruise Ship Private Island Ports

The allure of cruising lies not only in the opportunity to explore exotic destinations but also in the opportunity to wake up in a new place every single day ready for a new experience. More and more cruise lines are offering the unique experience of exploring secluded paradises in the form of a beach island, usually nestled away from the hustle and bustle of typical tourist hotspots. They promise a day of relaxation, adventure, and exclusive amenities on cruise line-owned private islands. However, like any destination, there are both pros and cons to stopping at these private islands, and understanding them will help you make the most educated decision the next time you are considering a cruise with a private island port of call. I recently stopped on our Caribbean cruise in Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas and this is what I took away from our first cruise line-owned private island experience.

pros and cons of cruise ships private island ports

Pros and Cons of Cruise Ship Private Island Ports


There is some kind of appeal to spending the day on a private island. It feels exclusive and fancy. Most major cruise lines have their own private islands or share one with other brands under the same corporate umbrella. Think of the cruise lines that you know of. Most of the major ones that come to mind are actually under a corporate umbrella. For instance, did you know that Carnival Corporation actually owns Holland America and Princess cruise lines too? Royal Caribbean and Celebrity are under the same corporation. A few of the major ones stand alone like Virgin and Disney. One thing that's the same is that they all saw the appeal of creating and acquiring private islands. 

Most of these private islands are in the Bahamas. Disney Cruise line has Castaway Cay, Carnival owns Half Moon Cay, Royal Caribbean owns Cocoa Cay, and Norweign owns Great Stirrup Cay. 

Don't miss this: A Beginner's Guide to Cruises

Why Do Cruise Lines Buy Private Islands?

It may feel like cruise lines acquiring private islands is a new phenomenon, but it's not. Actually, Norwegian Cruise Line was the first to make a deal with the Bahamian government back in the 70s to acquire a portion of Great Stirrup Cay. The island used to be a pirate hideout while the British settled in Nassau. NCL experienced great success on the island, and ended up purchasing the whole island and continues to improve and develop it. 

But why do cruise lines buy private islands?

Follow the money! When a cruise line has its own island, any fees, excursions, rentals, and upsells they have go directly to the cruise line. Customers continue to spend money when they head off the ship, and now the cruise line, not the local economy, benefits. 

Let's dive into these private island destinations and examine the pros and cons, so that you can make the best decision for yourself when you book your next cruise vacation.

Which is Better? Taking a Cruise or Going to an All-Inclusive Resort?


The Pros and Cons of Cruise Ship Island Ports

I have taken five cruises in my lifetime but I've never stopped at one of the cruise ship's private islands until this past vacation. I saw it on the itinerary and I must say, I didn't have high expectations. For starters, we were sailing on Norwegian Cruise Line and their private island, Great Stirrup Cay, is a tender port. The stop often gets canceled due to rough seas or high winds so I was trying not to get my hopes up about our stop in this port. I was actually surprised at how much I liked it. But I could also see some downsides too.

All-Inclusive {kind of}

Pros: For the most part, cruise ship island ports are generally an extension of the cruise package you've already paid for.  There are food options that are included and if you have a drink package, that extends to the island as well. {note, this isn't true for all of the cruise lines, so do your own research before you go!}

Cons: It is a cruise ship. They will do their best to make money! While there are beach chairs {included!}, do you want an umbrella? That's extra! Want a floatie for the water? $22 please! Check out our cool zipline! That's $119! 

Safe and Secure

Pros: Cruise line-owned private islands prioritize the safety and security of their guests. There is trained staff and the cruise ship safety protocols extend to the island. Some island ports have unstable governments and crime and private island ports are able to control this so that you can enjoy your day ashore without these concerns. You are also likely not going to get left behind on a private island. This will allow you to have some peace of mind and maximize your leisure time in port.

Cons: In a traditional port of call, the cruise passengers head in all different directions. The private island is a lot more confined and really doesn't allow much exploration outside of the offerings of the beach. 

cruise port private island

Experience a Private Island

Pros: Some cruise line-owned islands have water parks, swimming pools, and luxury accommodations while on the island. They often provide pristine beaches with luxurious amenities you wouldn't find in some of the traditional ports. Some cruise lines charge extra for things like water park admission, so keep that in mind. There are plenty of things you can do that are included {"free"}, and you can still have a good time doing those.

Cons: Private islands lack any type of cultural depth or authenticity that is often found in traditional ports of call. There aren't any landmarks or cultural experiences you can take part in. It's generally more of a beach day to enjoy rather than any type of cultural immersion. 

In case you missed it: The 5 Things I'm Glad I Packed on my Caribbean Cruise

While a cruise ship's private island port offers a chance to experience access to an exclusive island, they do come with their own set of pros and cons. These are the things you will want to take into consideration before you book your next cruise vacation. Spending a day on a private island adds a unique dimension to your cruise experience, but is it for everyone? Only you can decide!

disclaimer: this post may have affiliate links. By clicking on them and purchasing through them, I may receive a small commission. These small purchases help me to continue to keep writing content and creating at Rachel Teodoro. Thank you!

No comments

Powered by Blogger.