Everything You Need to Know About Norwegian's Private Islands
When you are craving some Caribbean sun, hop on one of Norwegian’s beautiful ships and head to warmer waters. Our co-founder, Melissa, is a Floridian native and is always looking for great escapes from her home ports.
Norwegian is one of several cruise lines that sail out of Tampa, Miami and Port Canaveral to marvelous destinations. Depending on your port and sailing date, it’s likely you will end up with your toes in the sand on one of Norwegian’s private islands. Let’s take a quick look at what each island has to offer.
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Great Stirrup Cay underwent a major makeover beginning in 2017. According to USA Today, this major investment by Norwegian into it’s 40-year-old port has updated the island and created a more elegant atmosphere. NCL spared no expense, adding more than $1 million in new landscaping (read: more shade trees - Fair-Skins Rejoice!), new eateries and a private lagoon area for Haven passengers which debuts this year.
A key point for us lounge lizards: Norwegian more than doubled the amount of lounge chairs on the beach. With over 3500 beach-front chairs, even on the busiest day, you are still likely to enjoy an ocean-front view.
Great Stirrup Cay gets a 4.5 rating on TripAdvisor with the majority of reviewers being extremely pleased with the beaches, the food options and facilities. Of course, there’s always a cranky pants or two, so keep that in mind. (Yes, it’s hot, it’s the Bahamas.)
If you feel like just spending a quiet day on the beach, (or are a fair-skinned ginger like me) we recommend reserving a private cabana. Yes - it’s more money. But the ease of having a home base for the whole family, with built in shade, is really priceless. (Go ahead, add up the price for 5 clam-shell chairs.) Each cabana is furnished with comfy lounge furniture, a small refrigerator and a private ramp down to the beach. Cabana rentals include snacks, bottled water and complimentary floating mats, as well as a $50 food credit for you to use when ordering from the special cabana menu. Or you can join the masses at the beach - it’s up to you:
Dining Options on Great Stirrup Cay
One huge perk for families with teens (or all-you-can-eaters) is that the food on the island is included with your cruise fare, just like it is on the ship. Currently, there are 3 dining locations on the Cay (a new private access restaurant is reserved for Haven guests.)
Beach Buffet - island buffet
Jumbey Beach Grill - (main buffet restaurant) pizza bar, hot dogs, hamburgers, jerk chicken, fruit, salad & desserts
Abaco Taco Stand - street-style, build-your-own taco stand
For you boozers out there, rest assured Great Stirrup Cay has you covered with at least 4 island bars: the Patron Bar (one tequila), Bertram’s Bar (two tequila), the Barcardi Bar (three tequila) and the Lighthouse Beach bar which is close to the cabanas for your afternoon nap (after all those tequilas!!). If you booked one of Norwegian’s free beverage packages, everything is included. But even the penny-pinchers can enjoy an island bibe and charge to your stateroom with your cruise room key.
Things to Do on Great Stirrup Cay?
If your crew is a little more on the adventurous side, there are lots of activities on the island, from snorkeling to paddle boarding, parasailing to kayaking. Or you can take this opportunity to see some of the Bahamas finest by booking one of many shore excursions.
The cruise experts over at Eat Sleep Cruise have shared their recommendations for the Best Things to Do in Great Stirrup Cay and we highly recommend you check it out. Our fav? We might just have to do the Pig Swim - I mean where else can you do that??
How Much Does Everything Cost at Great Stirrup Cay?
As of this writing, here are where things can add up for you. (Disclaimer - prices can vary slightly depending on sailing date.) Prices are per person.
Rent Snorkel Gear $30 (fins, vest, mask)
Paddle Board Rental $27
Kayak Tour $55
Clam Shell Chair (chair with shade) $20
Excursion: Swim with The Pigs $109
Excursion: Stingray City $79
Excursion: Jet Ski Rental $105
Excursion: Parasailing Tour $105
Cabana Rental starts at $349 - $475 per cabana
The Inside Scoop:
This is a tender island (tiny boats that go to the big boat). So get your tender ticket early!
Food and drinks are included.
Souvenir stands are cash only
Shore line is a bit rocky, so water shoes are recommended. Check out our list of all-time favorite water shoes (that don’t look like water shoes).
Private cabanas - $299 for a group of 6 people
Island eateries start closing around 2PM - so plan ahead
If not booking an excursion, bring your own snorkel gear and explore the underwater garden just off the beach
When looking for a chair, walk away from the tender entrance! You’ll thank us.
When cruising through the Western Caribbean, Norwegian’s ships pull in to port at their newest private island, Harvest Caye.
Voted Best New Cruise Port in 2017 by Porthole Magazine, Harvest Caye in Southern Belize is the Caribbean's premier island destination. Immerse yourself in natural beauty and culture on a 75-acre oasis featuring an expansive pool with a swim-up bar, salt-water lagoon for water sports, exclusive 7-acre beach and exciting shore excursions ranging from zip lining across the island to snorkeling the world's second largest barrier reef.
Dining Options on Harvest Caye
While Harvest Caye is nice on the eyes, it’s not so nice on the wallet. Unlike Great Stirrup Cay, food and beverages are not included on Harvest Caye. While there are plenty of places to eat, expect to pay moderate prices with a 12.5% tax and 15% service charge.
Landshark Bar & Grill - poolside American fare
Laughing Bird Bar & Grill - beach drinks with island eats
Horse Eye Jack’s - grill fare with local tastes like ceviche
Manatee Bar - try local brews
Things to Do on Harvest Caye
As Norwegian’s newest island, it has more to do “on island” than many other island ports of call. We’ll dig into just a few of our favorites.
#1. The Pool!
Located near the ship’s pier is an expansive resort-style pool. With hundreds of chairs and shaded lounges, the pool and surrounding decks are large enough that you won’t feel crowded. This free area is family friendly with a shallow kids area, waterfall, and lots of pool-side real estate. For the sun-shy, private pool cabanas are available to rent for $249.
#2. Exploring the Lagoon
There are many ways for the family to be active and explore the lagoon together. Cruisers can rent kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and electric boat floats! Let the adventure begin!
#3. Ziplining at The Flighthouse
Perfect for the thrill-seekers in the family, you can zipline across the island and enjoy the adrenaline rush as you fly over the beach and sunbathers. For an extra fee, of course.
#4 Wildlife Experience
This small eco-park offers a nice alternative to the beach scene. The site consists of a butterfly exhibit, two aviaries, a boa constrictor (eek) and tropical birds like this toucan and a scarlet macaw. Only takes a few minutes to cover the entire area, but it’s a great option for a shady spot to sit down and we think little ones will really like it.
How Much Does Everything Cost at Harvest Caye?
So we already talked about the additional dining costs. If looking to save costs, hop off early and grab a prime beach lounger for a free day on the beach and in the pool.
Beach chairs with clamshell covers $39
Paddleboard Rental $29/hour
Kayak Rental $29/hour
Ropes Course $19
Private Canopy Pool Cabana $349 per cabana (up to 4 people)
Luxury Beach Villa $699 per villa (up to 6 people). AC + Private Butler + Private Beach = OMG!!
Wildlife Experience (free and a great place to find shade!)
Kids Splash Area (Free)
Locker rentals $5 (no cash - cruise card only)
Shore Excursions from Harvest Caye
Just added to our bucket list is the Rainforest River Tubing. The rainforest river tubing adventure provides a unique way to experience sightseeing- by floating on an inner tube along a scenic waterway through the rain forest. Sign me up!
Parasail Adventure $99 adult / $99 child
Barrier Reef Snorkel $99 adult / $79 child
Mayan Ruins & Spice Farm $119 adult / $79 child
Rainforest River Tubing $99 adult / $69 child
Spice Farm & Botanical Gardens $99 adult / $69 child
Nim Li Punit with Lunch $99 adult / $79 child
Ke’kchi Chcolate & Culture $109 adult / $99 child
Jungle River Rafting $99 adult / $69 child
For a full list of shore excursions, visit Norwegian’s site: Top shore excursions from Harvest Caye.
HOW TO SAVE MONEY AT HARVEST CAYE
Hey, we get it: traveling with families is ex-pensive. Norwegian, as with many cruise lines, has so much to offer. Here’s just a few tips on how to save money while still maintaining your sanity.
Have each family member make a list of their MUST DOs and then prioritize them. Letting the kids choose their top 1 or 2 things might cut down on the whining later.
To save food $$, walk back to the ship for lunch. It’s a long walk down the pier, but you could save quite a bit of moo-lah for a family.
Compare excursions at other ports. For example, if you want to zip line and are stopping in Roatan, that course is bigger and costs less.
Explore the free Eco-Park - interesting native animals and plants and some shade, to boot! One TripAdvisor reviewer recommended getting the coconut drink from the main market area cart - virgin for the kiddies, with rum for me, please.
For ultimate cost savings, bring some snacks and make this a pool/beach day and skip all the extras.
TWO SCOOPS TIPS:
Carry cash or a credit card for any on-island purchases, as your NCL cruise card is not accepted on Harvest Caye (except for the lockers - weird, right?)
Water shoes … water shoes … water shoes. Your piggies will thank us. Check out our list of all-time favorite water shoes (that don’t look like water shoes).
Want pool time? Head there first to grab a chair.
Pool is not heated so little ones may get a bit chilled.
What are your favorite ports in the Caribbean? If you’re looking to book an island cruise vacation, give us a call or fill out our online questionnaire for free cruise advice and current sales and specials. We’ve got a fantastic special available only through travel agents for cruises booked by the end of June. So what are you waiting for?