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Florida Guide > Other Activities

Cruising – The Private Islands – Part 5

Princess Cays – Princess Cruises

Most of the large cruise companies either own, or lease, their own private island in the Caribbean, which only their ships can visit. They provide a unique getaway, where you can spend an active day doing every water sport imaginable, or simply lie in the sun, swim in the fantastic clear water, or, like me, wander along the beach looking for shells. A visit to one of these islands is often the last port of call, so it makes a perfect end to a cruise, as the day is yours to do with as you wish.

Princess Cruises 40 acre island paradise is called Princess Cays, and it is located at the southern portion of Eleuthera Island, about 30 miles from Nassau, in the Bahamas. It is one of our favourite private islands, as it has extensive facilities and beautiful beaches. Eleuthera, which means ‘freedom’ in Greek is actually a large island, 100miles long, by 2 miles wide, and Princess Cays is a tiny portion at the southernmost tip. In fact, you can walk over a wooden bridge onto the main island.

Of course it is reached by tender, and Princess provide a non-stop service to and from the island all day, to Love Boat Marina – a reference to the original ‘Love Boat’ of the television series – Pacific Princess. If you want to be early, then you are given a numbered tender ticket so that you do not spend hours queuing. When your number is called you assemble in the theatre and from there you are escorted to the tendering deck. After the first few tenders it is open tendering and you just wander down to the tendering deck and wait for the next boat to arrive. We find it easier to have a lazy breakfast, before taking a tender ashore, so you don’t waste time queuing.

The tenders arrive at the marina, and helpful staff assist you onto the dockside. The island is well signposted so you cannot get lost, and a map is available from the ship. The sand is soft, white and pristine, the sea is clear and sparkling, and the island is surrounded by coral reefs, where colourful tropical fish abound, providing the ideal environment for diving and snorkelling. The weather can be very hot and sunny, with temperatures in the high 80’s, and rarely below 60 degrees in the winter. A good tip is to ensure that you have a shady area to sit in – you may well burn up if you do not.

For those who want an active day there are aqua bikes, paddle wheelers, Banana Boats, Hobie Cat Sailboats, seaboards, transparent hulled kayaks and Sunfish sailboats. Banana boats look a lot of fun but be prepared for a bumpy ride that may leave you aching the next day. It is not for the faint-hearted. The fragile coral reef which surrounds this island is protected, and staff are careful to ensure that snorkellers do not stand on this fragile ecosystem.

There is a brilliant children’s area, Pelican’s Perch, which is fully fenced, and very safe, and of course is supervised by the ship’s own youth staff. There is a replica galleon, a sand playground and their own shallow pool.

Food is provided in large pavilions with plenty of shaded seating areas where you can sit and eat. There are several bars, but the beaches are constantly patrolled by cheerful waiters and waitresses who will bring you a cooling cocktail. Both the right hand side and the left hand side beaches have their own BBQ food pavilion. The one on the left hand side is larger, and has a better selection of food. We particularly enjoyed the huge displays of freshly cut fruit – melon, pineapple etc. which were delicious and refreshing after a stint in the sun.

You can use your shipboard charge card for drinks, some shops and activities, but you will need US dollars for the local souvenir shops which sell Bahamian crafts, hats, shells, etc plus hair braiding.

Sports equipment can be hired at the Sports Pier, where you can rent a kayak, sailboat, paddle wheeler, banana boat, seaboard, aqua bike, snorkelling gear, and floating mats. You can also book a parasail if you want to see the island from above. Cruise staff provide volleyball and basketball matches, but if you just want to chill out you can relax on the beautiful beaches under a tiki hut or beach parasol.

Our own personal tip is when you arrive on the island make straight for the little wooden bridge on the right hand side, and onto one of the beaches there. Most people head left, where the shops are, so you will find this area less busy. It also has a smaller food pavilion, which is still more than adequate.

When you are ready to head back to the ship, try to allow plenty of time if you do not want to queue. If you leave it too late you will find long queues stretching out in the blazing sunshine. In fact it is great to return early to a fairly empty ship and enjoy a peaceful swim in one of the many pools on board. Our advice would be to find a suitable spot near the tendering area and sit under a beach parasol, whilst you take it in turns to queue. In any case, they will not leave you on the island, so in reality you can just join the queue for the last tender, and cut out all the standing about.

We find the clearing up of the island fascinating as everything has to be transported from the ship. It is amazing to see the staff clearing up, and it is a highly organised operation. When everyone has left, the island is pristine and ready for its next guests to arrive.

The last time we visited this beautiful island we were lucky enough to see flying fish leaping out of the water as the tender cut through the waves. It is an exhilarating experience, as the tenders are quite fast, and looking back at this tropical paradise, seeing the wake of the boat like a great foaming snail trail behind you, and turning to watch the huge white bulk of the ship ahead of you is a memorable experience. It’s a great photo opportunity, too, so if you get the chance sit on the top deck in the open, towards the front you will get some fabulous photographs of your beautiful cruise ship.

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Page added on: 23 October 2007
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