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See the 6 private islands in the Caribbean owned by cruise lines with amenities like water parks, luxury villas, and private beaches

Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island
Thrill Waterpark at Perfect Day at CocoCay.Brittany Chang/Insider
  • Cruise lines don't just own big boats — they also own private islands in places like the Bahamas and Belize.

  • The properties have proven valuable for cruise lines like Carnival, its CEO said in March.

  • See photos of the 6 private islands owned by Royal Caribbean, Carnival, MSC, and Disney.

1. Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line

castaway cay
David Roark/Disney Cruise Line

Disney Cruise Line signed a 99-year lease for Castaway Cay with the Bahamian government for an undisclosed price in 1997.

The Disney Dream cruise ship docked at Castaway Cay.
Mark Gauert/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Source: SFGATE

Previously known as "Gorda Cay," the island was once a hot spot for pirates and drug trafficking, according to an investigation by SFGATE.

Castaway Cay
Mark Gauert/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Source: SFGATE

Today, the family friendly private island is only accessible by Disney cruise guests and approximately 60 staff members who live and work on the island full-time.

"Dancing with the Stars" alum William Levy, actress Elizabeth Gutiérrez and their children, Christopher, age 10, and Kailey, age 6, ride water tricycles in the tropical waters of Disneys private island in the Bahamas, Castaway Cay.
Matt Stroshane/Disney Cruise Line via Getty Images

Source: Disney Cruise Line

The shipwreck-themed island offers activities for all age groups, with special beach sections for families, adults, and teens.

Pelican Plunge is a new water slide on Castaway Cay, Disney's private island in the Bahamas, that is visited by Disney ships such as the Disney Dream. ()
Marjie Lambert/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Source: Disney Cruise Line

Of course, famous Disney characters make guest appearances on the island throughout the day.

Minnie the Mouse on Castaway Cay, Disney's private island in the Bahamas.
Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Castaway has proven so valuable to the brand that Disney is investing between $250 million and $400 million to develop a 700-acre property called "Lighthouse Point" on the Bahamian island of Eleuthera.

Lighthouse Point is located on Eleuthera Island, Bahamas.
Universal History Archive/Getty Images

Source: Lighthouse Point Bahamas

The new island resort, which saw substantial pushback from local environmentalist groups, will welcome Disney cruises starting in the Summer of 2024.

The Disney Wish docked at Castaway Cay in September 2022.
Amanda Krause/Insider

Source: Disney Cruise Line, Change.org

2. Half Moon Cay, Carnival Corporation

Half Moon Cay, Carnival
Cruise Image Library/Holland America Line

Half Moon Cay, a private island in the Bahamas, was purchased by Carnival subsidiary Holland America Line for $6 million in 1996.

Half Moon Cay, Carnival
Cruise Image Library/Holland America Line

Source: Holland America Line

The cruise line spent more than $16 million on developing the island into a private beach resort, where cruise guests can go snorkeling, horseback riding, and swim with stingrays.

Half Moon Cay, Carnival
Cruise Image Library/Holland America Line

Source: Carnival Corporation

 

Carnival CEO Josh Weinstein said on a March earnings call that the cruise line is working to "further leverage and monetize" its land-based assets this year.

Half Moon Cay
Cruise Image Library / Holland America Line

Source: Carnival Corporation

Guests can explore the island by tram, or via hiking and cycling trails. For extra privacy, two-story villas and beach cabanas are available for rent.

Guests can rent private villas for the day on Half Moon Cay.
Cruise Image Library/Holland America Line

Source: Carnival Corporation

3. Perfect Day at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean International

An aerial view of Coco Cay, the private island for Royal Caribbean International cruise line, in the Bahamas, photographed Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. Coco Cay sustained only superficial damage from Hurricane Dorian. ()
Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Royal Caribbean unveiled its $250 million private island in the Bahamas in 2019. So far, it's been a hit for the cruising giant.

Royal Caribbean's Perfect Day at CocoCay island
The Coco Beach Club on Royal Caribbean's Perfect Day at CocoCay island.Royal Caribbean International

Demand has been "exceptionally high" for Royal Caribbean's slice of paradise, Michael Bayley, the company's president and CEO, told investors in February.

Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island
Brittany Chang/Insider

Many of the cruise line's North American cruises stop at Perfect Day at CocoCay. And this year, Bayley thinks the getaway will see two-and-a-half to three million travelers.

Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island
Brittany Chang/Insider

Perfect Day at CocoCay is lined with complimentary beaches, pools, and food stands.

Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island
Brittany Chang/Insider

However, many of the more desirable amenities — like the beach club, water park, and cabanas — come at an extra cost.

Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island
Brittany Chang/Insider

So does access to the zip line and the helium balloon.

Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island
Brittany Chang/Insider

With all of these paid amenities, it's no surprise the island's financial returns have been "exceptionally high and significantly above its targeted returns," Naftali Holtz, Royal Caribbean Group's CFO, told investors in February.

Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island
Brittany Chang/Insider

Source: Insider

But CocoCay isn't complete yet. In 2024, Royal Caribbean will unveil an extension of the private island: Hideaway Beach, an adults only section with a pool and private cabanas.

Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island
Brittany Chang/Insider

4. Ocean Cay, MSC

An aerial view of MSC Cruises' Ocean Cay private island and the surrounding ocean.
MSC Cruises

Royal Caribbean Group isn’t the only cruise brand to have launched a private island in 2019.

An aerial view of MSC Cruises' Ocean Cay private island and the surrounding ocean.
MSC Cruises

That same year, MSC unveiled its own Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve private island in the Bahamas.

A MSC cruise ship at sea
MSC Cruises

Source: Insider

This man-made island was initially created and used for sand mining, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

A MSC cruise ship at sunset
MSC Cruises

Source: Orlando Sentinel

When MSC purchased the property, it was tasked with restoring the land and cleaning the remaining debris from the previous mining operations.

A private island with kayaks
MSC Cruises

Source: Orlando Sentinel

Now, it's used as a destination for the cruise giant's North America-based Caribbean itineraries.

An aerial view of MSC Cruises' Ocean Cay private island and the surrounding ocean.
MSC Cruises

Source: Insider

Like any cruise line-owned island, Ocean Cay has amenities for adults and families.

An aerial view of MSC Cruises' Ocean Cay private island and the surrounding ocean.
MSC Cruises

The island has eight beaches interspersed over two miles, a shopping center, and family friendly activities like stargazing excursions and beach volleyball.

MSC Cruises' Ocean Cay's beach
MSC Cruises

Source: MSC Cruises

For adults in need of quiet relaxation, the island also has massage huts on the beach.

MSC Cruises' Ocean Cay's beach
MSC Cruises

5. Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian Cruise Line

Swings above water
Norwegian Cruise Line

Great Stirrup Cay is Norwegian's private island in the Bahamas.

Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas
Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas2021 Norwegian Cruise Line

Unlike competing cruise lines, the 270-acre destination has been in Norwegian's real estate portfolio since 1977.

Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas
Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas2021 Norwegian Cruise Line

At the time, it was the cruise industry's first private island destination for guests, according to the company.

Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas
Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas2021 Norwegian Cruise Line

Source: Norwegian Cruise Line

Here, you can swim with pigs or stingrays, nap on the beach, or sip on a mojito at the Bacardi Bar.

Aerial view of Great Stirrup Cay
Norwegian Cruise Line

For thrill-seekers, there's also the option to parasail along the coast, zip line, or snorkel around an underwater sculpture garden.

Aerial view of Great Stirrup Cay
Norwegian Cruise Line

But if you'd rather relax, there are several cabanas that can be rented for the day.

Aerial view of Great Stirrup Cay
Norwegian Cruise Line

For a more exclusive retreat, the island is also home to Norwegian's Silver Cove.

Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas
Villas: Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas2021 Norwegian Cruise Line

This "resort-style retreat" is filled with villas, a spa, and private beaches that could rival a luxury hotel.

Inside Norwegian Cruise Line's Silver Cove at Great Stirrup Cay
Norwegian Cruise Line

Source: Norwegian Cruise Line

This addition was launched in 2019.

A beachside walkaway with palm trees
Norwegian Cruise Line

6. Harvest Caye, Norwegian Cruise Line

Harvest Caye, Norwegian Cruise Line
Harvest Caye, Norwegian Cruise LineNorwegian Cruise Line

Great Stirrup Cay isn't Norwegian Cruise Line's only island venture.

Harvest Caye, Norwegian Cruise Line
Harvest Caye, Norwegian Cruise LineNorwegian Cruise Line

It also owns Harvest Caye in Belize, a 75-acre tropical getaway with beaches that span seven acres.

Harvest Caye, Norwegian Cruise Line
Harvest Caye, Norwegian Cruise LineNorwegian Cruise Line

Like Great Stirrup Cay, travelers can snorkel around a reef and zip line across the island.

Harvest Caye
Norwegian Cruise Line

Source: Royal Caribbean International

There's also a swim-up bar in the pool, a saltwater lagoon for kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding …

Harvest Caye
Norwegian Cruise Line

… and a marina for a relaxing afternoon stroll by the water.

Harvest Caye
Norwegian Cruise Line

And of course, cabanas can be rented at an extra cost. It wouldn’t be a private island owned by a cruise line without some paid amenities, after all.

Harvest Caye
Norwegian Cruise Line

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