On a cruise billed with “Perfect Day in CocoCay” as the featured port stop, we were looking forward to our visit there, which was the last scheduled port in our itinerary on Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas. It was the only port on our schedule where I hadn’t been, and I always like to see new places. Everything was new to my sister Barbara, who had not previously been to the Caribbean, but a having beach day was the thing she wanted to do most on our trip and that was the ideal place for it.
CocoCay is Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas. It sits about 55 miles north of Nassau in the Berry Islands and is also known as Little Stirrup Cay. Activities abound in a variety of sections. Captain Jill’s Galleon near the arrival plaza is a water playground for small kids. You can take a zipline across the harbor, go on waterslides, hang out at one of a variety of beaches, or stop for lunch or a quick snack. At least you can if your ship actually stops at the island. Unfortunately for us it was a stormy day and our captain didn’t feel it was safe to dock. Probably wouldn’t be the best beach day with wind, big waves, high seas, and clouds or even rain instead of sunshine anyway.
While there are some free things to do on the island, it is full of things that cost extra. Thrill waterpark offers 6 waterslides and the biggest wave pool in the Caribbean. For people who want a more relaxing day on the island, Cocoa Beach Club has an exclusive private beach with beachside or floating cabanas, infinity pool, beach chairs, clubhouse, and upscale dining for those who want to pay the price to go there. Or get the best view around with a trip 450 feet up into the air on Up, Up and Away, a tethered balloon. People book these things in advance, but if the ship doesn’t stop on the island they get a refund. Even if the ship does dock there for the day some things like the balloon and zip line may not open if it is too windy for them to be safe.
There are free things to do on the island too. Oasis Lagoon is the largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean. It has swim-to islands and a swim-up bar. Different coves within the pool offer different things. One has a kid-friendly sloped entry area. For a new and different experience duck below the surface to hear the underwater music. Hungry folks can find a complimentary burger, hot dog, or salad at the nearby snack shack. Cabanas with concierge service are available for an additional fee because even in the otherwise free areas there are ways for the cruise line to extract extra money. Like bars where people line up to buy drinks.
Chill Island is the place to go for snorkeling, jet skis, or barbecue. Go paddleboarding or lounge on the beach. Cabanas and beach beds are available for an extra charge and snorkel gear available for rent if you don’t have your own. South Beach has volleyball, basketball, snorkeling, and a snack shack. The ever-present cabanas are available there too for those looking for an upgrade. Of course there’s food and bars to be found around the island. Most of the food is complimentary, but some is pay-extra.
Had we made it to the island we would have ended up at South Beach or Chill Island, and perhaps spent a bit of time in Oasis Lagoon as well. I’d have wanted somewhere to go snorkeling, and Barbara would have been looking for a nice beach chair. Linda would have been there too, doing whatever struck her fancy. Instead of our much-anticipated beach day we just saw the island in passing as the ship sailed by while the captain made his decision not to stop. The island next to it also looked like a cruise ship private island, probably Norwegian’s Great Stirrup Cay since that island is close by. There was no sign of any ships there that day either.
I had another chance to see this island. After our January 2022 cruise on Serenade of the Seas out of Tampa got cancelled John booked a replacement on Wonder of the Seas for the next fall, which other than the starting port had the same itinerary as the one I took on Symphony with my sisters. The weather was enough better to actually make it to the island that time, but still not ideal for a beach day and some things weren’t open. I once ran into someone who said they’d taken 3 cruises that were supposed to stop at CocoCay and none had made it, so either that person had extremely bad luck or bad weather happens frequently at that island. My luck with the weather on that island wasn’t the greatest either, though it must work out for some people. They probably wouldn’t build all that on an island that never had good weather.
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I completely agree with your last sentence about not building out that island as much as they have if there was never any manageable weather there. There isn’t much adventure to be had if you can never get to it!😀
We will have to try again sometime!