Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas, CocoCay, has just gotten a $250 million facelift. It comes complete with a zip line, waterpark, beachfront and wave pool, a cute little shopping area and really, really good burgers. Here’s a look at the island, which has something for just about everyone.
Disclosure: The writer was hosted by Royal Caribbean for the purposes of writing this review. All opinions are her own.
Having a private island in the Bahamas is the standard for Caribbean cruiselines, but Royal Caribbean has taken the private island game up a notch with the $250 million upgrade of CocoCay (pronounced co-co-key). The Perfect Day Island includes a waterpark with North America’s highest water slide, an air balloon ride, a huge pool and a gorgeous upscale section.
The island used by Royal Caribbean ships as well as Celebrity cruise ships solely for their passengers, really does have something for just about everyone. And, I suppose, if you include the option for cruise passengers to stay onboard and have a huge ship and all of the onboard waterslides pretty much to yourselves, you can say there is something for everyone during a day spent in port at CocoCay. (Some cruises starting in September 2019 will get two stops at the island. A few will even get a nighttime stop, complete with an island barbeque, fire dancers and fireworks.)
I took advantage of my son being home from college and visited as guests of Royal Caribbean International onboard the Navigator of the Seas. Our 4-night cruise from Miami to the Eastern Caribbean included one stop in Nassau and another at CocoCay.
A Perfect Day at CocoCay
Royal Caribbean promises passengers a “perfect day at CocoCay.” And that’s just what my college-age son and I had. We spent the full day on the island, sliding eating, swimming and zip lining. Here’s what we loved and what you need to know.
Thrill Waterpark on CocoCay
Take a beautiful Bahamas blue sky and mix it with a multi-colored waterpark for a picture-perfect day on the island. Thrill Waterpark is home to the 135-foot tall Daredevil’s Peak, which Royal Caribbean says is North America’s tallest water slide. My son loved it. I thought about joining him, ok,I thought about it for like 2 seconds but there was no way. I knew that I would have talked myself out of it by the time i reached the top step. (Note: You’ll be hoofing it up the stairs for every one of those 135 feet to the top of the tower!)
My son said he wished his brother and sister were along so he could have raced them down the side-by-side Splash Speedway slides. More power to them!
I redeemed myself on the Slingshot which seats 4 people inside an inflatable float and slings the float into the air- a real adrenalin rush. That was plenty scary enough for me, although I would have done it again. But I am never going on the one where the floor drops out. I see no reason to do that. Ever.
We skipped the humongous wave pool, which Royal Caribbean says is the largest wave pool in the Caribbean and opted for a dip in the ocean. The waves there are much calmer, but the water was warm, clear and gorgeous. When we were done swimming, we grabbed two of the many lounge chairs for a chill and argued over whether we should head back to Daredevil’s Peak for another thrill.
The waterpark, which is an additional fee, also has a kid-friendly obstacle course pool.
Oasis Lagoon, which Royal says is the largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean, comes complete with swim-up bar and in-pool loungers. There also are plenty of lounge chairs and umbrellas on dry ground surrounding the pool. For a more upscale experience, you can rent a cabana, with private service. We were happy finding a spot on one of the pool “islands.”
Another cool pool feature: Sounds Beneath the Surface. Stick your head underwater to hear the music!
The pool has a zero-depth entry for little ones.
There’s no need to head back to the ship for lunch. Just head over to the beach, where you’ll find surprisingly good burgers, delicious roasted vegetables and greek salad at Snack Shack. Food at this beachside grill is included in the cruise price, although drinks are not. There’s also quick eats in the waterpark at Chill Grill, although we didn’t eat there.
Chill Island also is the place on the island to rent water play equipment, like jet skis or snorkeling and kayaking gear.
Up Up and Away
The island has two ways to get high, both at an upcharge. There’s a 1600-foot zip line — up to 50 feet high — and a helium balloon, dubbed “Up, Up and Away” that soars 450 feet into the air. There was too much wind for a helium balloon ride but my son and I did strap in for a zip line adventure over the waterpark. There are three zip lines crisscrossing the island. I don’t love heights but the staff were terrific at distracting me so I almost got used to the ride. Sitting through a passing thunder shower 100 feet in the air didn’t help, but I finished strong.
TravelingMom Tip 1: Bring closed-toe shoes if you want to go zip lining — they’re required. Opt for water shoes, since the zip line ends in a “water landing.”
TravelingMom Tip 2: While everything on the island is paid for with your ship card, you can bring your phone and other valuables with you. There are free lockers on the island for storing those valuable while you zip and swim and jump over the waves.
Upping the CocoCay Experience
For a luxury experience on CocoCay, head to Coco Beach Club and rent one of the overwater cabanas, complete with a slide into the aqua blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. This area also is home to another of the dining venues, a spa and an infinity pool that blurs the lines between the beach and sea.
There’s a cute little shopping market that sells the kind of touristy things you would expect to find in an open air Caribbean market, along with the requisite hair braiding stall. What’s a trip to the Caribbean without getting your daughter’s hair braided? Or yours?
Cruising to CocoCay
The thrills aren’t limited to CocoCay. Our Royal Caribbean cruise, onboard the newly refurbished Navigator of the Seas, has its own: the longest waterslide at sea. Perhaps because my son and I cruised in May before school was out for the summer, we pretty much had The Blaster aqua coaster to ourselves. We loved it! We spent a half day going on that slide, over and over again. There are two other slide experiences — the side by side Perfect Storm waterslides and the Riptide headfirst mat racer.
The ship also has an adult-only section, With more adults than kids on our cruise, it’s not surprising that the adults-only pool was overrun. I would expect that not to be the case on cruises during heavier family travel times, like summer and school break weeks.
Family Friendly Features of the Navigator of the Seas
Our cabin was small, but the king size bed could be split into two twins — an important point for a mother traveling with her adult son.
If you’re traveling with a big, multigenerational family group (cruises are great for multigen trips!), try the escape room. It could be a fun family bonding experience as you work together to get yourselves out. If you don’t have enough people to fill all of the slots, expect to be put in a group with other cruisers.
Another option is to take the family for a rousing game of laser tag. Depending on your family dynamics, you could choose to be on the same team or break up into two different teams and shoot at each other. To each his own.
The included dining offered plenty of tasty fare. It was a good thing on our cruise because the upcharge dining rooms were almost all booked. We did get a chance to try the steakhouse and would eat there again. My son said the steak was perfectly cooked and tasty and there were seafood options for me since I rarely eat red meat. Expect to pay prices approximating restaurant prices if you dine at one of the fine dining restaurants onboard.
TravelingMom Tip: If, like us, you forget to book dinner reservations before you board the ship, fear not! People cancel their reservations all the time. Just keep checking back to see if anything has opened up. Or head to the restaurant 30 minutes before closing time to see if they will seat you.