Cruising - Private Islands Part 2

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Florida Guide > Travelling

Cruising - Private Islands Part 2

Great Stirrup Cay (NCL)

It is only in the last 30 years that the concept of visiting a private Caribbean island has become popular with cruise passengers. Following Norwegian Cruise Lines purchase of Great Stirrup Cay, all the major cruise lines began to purchase, or lease, their own islands in the Caribbean, which their cruise ships visit on many of their itineraries.

But of course, each one is very different, as this guide will show you.

Norwegian Cruise Line - Great Stirrup Cay

This is part of the Bahamas’ Berry Island chain, and lies about 50 miles from Nassau, and 120 nautical miles from Fort Lauderdale. English is spoken on the island, and US currency is accepted, although you can use your shipboard credit account. Surrounded by a reef, there are sandy beaches and clear water, where exotic tropical fish swim happily around you, as you paddle or swim. It is great for snorkelling, and a good tip is to remember to bring goggles. You might also find water shoes useful, as the ocean floor is rather sharp and rocky. The white sandy beaches are formed of coral and limestone, and there are coconut palms and tropical vegetation. You may even see a Royal Caribbean ship anchored nearby, off the island of CocCay – formerly Little Stirrup Cay.

We first visited Great Stirrup Cay in 1999, when we took a cruise on the famous ‘Norway’. Tendering was by two huge amphibious landing craft (Little Norway I and II ) each taking about 500 people, and filling them took an enormous amount of time. We were not particularly impressed by Great Stirrup Cay on this visit. The beach was quite small, with limited space for loungers. These were crammed in, row upon row, and were actually half loungers – they looked as if they had been cut off – not very comfortable, but they enabled large numbers of people to be accommodated. You were only a few inches from your neighbours and to be honest it was not much of an island idyll.

However, since then, NCL have improved the facilities on this island and there is now an expanded schedule of water sports available, including snorkelling, glass bottomed peddle boats (approx. $10 for half an hour), parasailing, kayaks ($20 per hour), sailing catamarans ($30 an hour), jet-skis, and the usual floating mats ($5). Inflatable ‘party’ rafts – circular floats, which can accommodate 4 people, rent out for $15. Various sporting activities take place during the day, including volley ball, nature hikes, and limbo dancing to the calypso band. Nature trails lead across the island, to deserted areas, and you might be lucky enough to find the picturesque lighthouse.

There is a massage hut where passengers can get a massage for $1 a minute, provided by the ship’s Spa staff. A Caribbean band plays, and there are palm shaded hammocks, restrooms, a dining area and a continuous BBQ where you can enjoy chicken, burgers, ribs, hot dogs, salads, French fries, desserts etc. If you want to shop there is a Straw market selling local crafts. You can relax on the beach and wait for the bar staff to bring you a freshly prepared Bahama Mama in a souvenir cup, while the rest of the family snorkel, parasail, explore or simply swim in the crystal clear waters.

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