Tourism & Cruises

Water slides, zip line and a giant balloon: Royal Caribbean’s $250M private island update

Now that the four largest cruise companies all own private destinations in the Bahamas, chances are your Caribbean cruise will include a stop at one of them. But what you find when you disembark depends on who you book with.

Miami-based Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. is banking on thrills. The company debuted its Perfect Day at CocoCay destination earlier this month after a $250 million renovation. The island boasts a new water park featuring a 135-foot-tall water slide, a helium balloon carrying guests 450 feet above land, a 1,600-foot-long zip-line, and a freshwater lagoon. The 125-acre destination has enough room to accommodate 10,000 people at one time.

The thrills come with a price though. A full day at the water park goes for $44 to $99 per person, the zip-line $79 to $139 per person, and the balloon ride $39 to $99 per person, depending on the season.

Eleven Royal Caribbean ships will sail to Perfect Day at CocoCay in 2019, including Miami-based Empress, Symphony, and Navigator of the Seas ships. The company’s largest ships in its Oasis class are able to dock right at the island thanks to a new pier — no tender needed. The pier can accommodate two ships at a time.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. reopened its private Bahamian destination Perfect Day at Coco Cay in May after a $250 million renovation. It has a water park featuring the highest water slide in North America, according to the company. Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean is planning four more private destinations in the Caribbean, Asia and Australia. Locations have not been announced.

MSC Cruises, a Geneva-based company with U.S. headquarters in South Florida, is taking the opposite approach with its new private Bahamian destination debuting in November. At Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, the company aims to show off the natural beauty of the Caribbean island with activities like snorkeling, kayaking and paddle boarding. The company is planning to build a marine laboratory on the island for researching climate change-resistant coral.

Miami-based Carnival Corporation operates two private Bahamian destinations, Half Moon Cay and Princess Cays. Last year Carnival Corp. completed a renovation of Princess Cays to equip the destination with its new Medallion Net wifi tech, expand the marina to allow for larger tenders, and offer more excursions like clear-bottom kayaking and bicycle tours.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. reopened its private Bahamian destination Perfect Day at Coco Cay in May. The over water cabanas will open in December.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, also based in Miami, is investing in several upgrades to its private Bahamian island, Great Stirrup Cay, this year. By the end of the year the cruise company said the island will feature beachfront luxury villas, new dining options, and a Mandara Spa.

The newest cruise company to town, Virgin Voyages, which sails its first ship from Miami next year, is building a private beach club for its passengers on the Bahamas island of Bimini. The company said it plans to throw beach parties for passengers at the club that rival the beach parties of Ibiza.

Related stories from Miami Herald

Taylor Dolven covers the tourism industry at the Miami Herald, where she aims to tell stories about the people who work in tourism and the people who enjoy it. Previously, she worked at Vice News in Brooklyn, NY, where she won a Front Page Award from the Newswomen’s Club of NY for a national investigation of police shootings.