When I visited CocoCay, the private island in the Bahamas owned by Royal Caribbean Cruise Line (RCCL), about 15 years ago, the stunning island beauty took my breath away. At 125 acres, CocoCay sits at the northern tip of The Berry Islands just 50 miles northwest of Nassau. Its translucent, blue waters, swaying palms, and soft white sand beckon you to just relax and soak in the tropical vibe.
And it still does.
But thanks to a recent revamp, the island now offers a full slate of experiences—exclusively for Royal Caribbean guests.
“Perfect Day at CocoCay is upping the ante on what it means to thrill and chill on vacation with a number of distinct, first-time experiences and iconic features that top any vacationer’s bucket list,” says Tina Caballero, the cruise line’s senior manager of public relations.
I recently took a four-day family cruise to the Bahamas on Mariner of the Seas and was blown away by the island’s changes. RCCL has transformed this one-day stopover into an exquisite private oasis, pumping in $250 million in renovations. The overhaul starts with the moment you disembark from the ship.
The New Pier
You no longer have to waste time boarding a tender to ferry you to the island. Previously, the cruise ship anchored offshore CocoCay. Guests needed to reserve a tender ticket, wait in line, then board at a designated time to begin the short (5-10 minute) trip to shore and disembark. A hassle, for sure.
Now, a new 60-foot-wide, 1680-feet-long pier makes island access a breeze. Case in point: An hour into our island escape, my son had issues with his contact lenses. No need to wait for the ferry to get back to the cruise ship. He just took a quick walk along the pier, giving him direct entrance to the ship on his schedule. He was back, toes-in-the-sand, in about 10-15 minutes.
Activities & Amenities
With over 6,000 lounge chairs sprinkled throughout the island, just pick a chair (or hammock) to set up your home base and start exploring.
Note: Most activities are complimentary, but some require an extra fee, such as jet skiing, snorkeling, ziplining, balloon ride, and waterpark entrance.
Perhaps the biggest add-on to CocoCay, this nine-acre aqua-playground appeals to thrill-seekers young and old. Its two main water towers (Daredevil’s Peak and Splash Summit) feature 13 slides at various heights—more than any other Caribbean waterpark.
At 135-feet high, Daredevil’s Peak holds the title of tallest waterslide in North America, giving brave guests 30-40 seconds of vertical thrills as they plunge down the 764-foot long slide at 18mph. If the climb to the top feels daunting, guests can hop on any of the tower’s six other slides, ranging from 25-75-feet high, or head to Splash Summit, with six slides ranging from 40-60 feet high. From single-rider plummets to racing slides to multi-person raft rides, you can spend hours just in this waterpark.
Tired of vertical drops? Head to the Wave Pool—the largest one in the Caribbean, with 28,000 gallons of water to splash around in and catch the intermittent waves. Or check out the Adventure Pool to conquer the lily pad obstacle course, rock wall, and swing ropes.
While Chill Island still offers the perfect beachfront swimming area, the island now boasts the Caribbean’s largest freshwater pool. Oasis Lagoon features three distinct coves, each with its own vibe—party central, kid city, and chill zone. With a DJ cranking out party tunes next to the swim-up bar, you can plunk down on an underwater bar stool or take your to-go cocktail (try the Coco Loco!) to multiple coves or swim-up islands.
In the kids’ area, you’ll find gushing fountains and a zero-entry area—also perfect for guests requiring beach access wheelchairs (available for free).
If you want to chill, head to the quiet area of the pool where you can recline in one of the many semi-submerged lounge chairs. Not sure what you’re in the mood for? Walk over the pedestrian footbridge for a great view of the lagoon while you pick out your perfect spot.
Feeling bold? Adrenaline junkies will love the new 1600-foot-long zip line, which travels over the harbor for a spectacular view. Or, get a birds-eye perspective on Up, Up, and Away, the colorful helium balloon that gives you the highest vantage point in Bahamas, soaring up to 450 feet.
Little explorers can climb aboard the shipwrecked Captain Jill’s Galleon, zip down multiple slides, and commandeer more than a dozen water cannons—perfect for aiming at your older brother! Even bigger fun awaits your pint-size crew at Splashaway Bay, thanks to plenty of fountains, pools, sprinklers, geysers, water cannons, whirlpools, just-for-munchkins waterslides, and two massive drench buckets.
While the previous barbeque offerings hit the spot for hungry island-goers, the array of food choices this time around proved much better. Plenty of restaurants and bars dot the island now, dishing up everything from fabulous taco bars, healthy salad fixin’s, and fresh fruit to burgers, wings, and desserts—all complementary, except soda and alcohol. Dine al fresco under the shaded picnic tables. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot a few iguanas passing by.
But Wait—There’s More!
Set to debut in January 2020, the private CocoBeach Club will offer the ultimate in privacy for an added fee. This premium area will include 20 overwater cabanas—a first in the Bahamas—and 10 landside cabanas, plus a club house, oceanfront infinity pool, day beds, and upscale amenities. Also set to open in December is the activity-focused South Beach, complete with volleyball, beachside basketball, soccer, paddle boarding, and glass-bottom kayaking.
Sounds like I might need to go back for another visit.
Lisa Beach is a seasoned freelance writer. Her work has been published in The New York Times, USA Today Go Escape Florida & Caribbean, Good Housekeeping, Eating Well, and dozens more. Check out her writer’s website at www.LisaBeachWrites.com.