When it comes to a cruise holiday, there are few places that can match the Caribbean - an expansive network of islands that are tailor-made for exploring by sea.
The likes of the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, St Lucia and Barbados are known around the world for picture perfect beaches where you can relax and take in the scenery.
But did there are some cruises where you can go the extra mile and enjoy a little taste of luxury with a trip to a private island, with a number of cruise lines having invested heavily in purchasing their own islands before redeveloping them into special destinations for their own exclusive use.
Here, we look at five such islands that you might be lucky enough to visit….
Great Stirrup Cay
Located in the Bahamas, Great Stirrup Cay was the first island to be taken over exclusively by a cruise line back in the 1970s and has been visited ever since by Norwegian Cruise Lines vessels.
The idyllic island paradise has various activities that can be enjoyed whilst ashore, with perfect white sandy beaches for those who simply want to explore to a high-speed zipline that provides an alternative view of the island from above.
Off the main beach there is the chance to go snorkelling around an offshore reef, whilst heading for the other side of the island opens up the opportunity to partake in a range if water sports - that include everything from kayaking to jet-skiing.
Should you prefer to take things easy then there is an impressive spa, whilst villas and cabanas can be hired if you want to enjoy some private.
Just ten minutes away from Great Stirrup Cay is Treasure Island, where you can go swimming with pigs on a unique excursion unlike anything else.
Half Moon Cay
Half Moon Cay is another private island that is located in the Bahamas and is owned by Carnival Cruise Line - welcoming ships from both Carnival itself and from subsidiary line Holland America.
The award-winning island is packed with things to see and do, with activities in place that will cater for visitors of all ages.
As well as relaxing on the impressive beach, you can try your hand at a range of watersports that include snorkelling, kayaking and paddleboards, with scuba diving and deep sea fishing for those who prefer to head a little further from the shore.
Horseback rides on the beach are something that you won’t be able to do anywhere else, whilst children can burn off some energy at a new waterpark that has been introduced onto the island
Alongside a selection of bars and restaurants - which includes a Lobster Shack serving the freshest seafood - Half Moon Cay offers the unique opportunity to either get married or renew your vows as its very own chapel.
Harvest Caye sits off the coast of Belize and is another island that is operated by Norwegian Cruise Line for exclusive use of guests sailing on its ships.
Opened in 2016, the 75 acre island has already proven itself to be an award-winner and has quickly become a 'go to' destination for anyone who wants to enjoy some fun on a cruise around the Caribbean.
For a start, there is a huge 15,000 square foot swimming pool that includes swim-up bar and cascading waterfall surrounded by plenty of space in which you can lie back and top up your sun tan. There are even private air-conditioned cabanas available for rent that include concierge service for that extra special experience.
Of course you could head for the seven acre beach instead, with the waters surrounding the island being home to the second largest barrier reef in the world; a great place to go snorkelling and explore the marine life. Watersports are also available in a salt water lagoon.
As is the case with Great Stirrup Cay, the island features a huge zipline that allows you to soar above the island at speeds of 40mph - which is sure to appeal to thrillseekers.
Food and drink is widely available from a selection of bars and restaurants, whilst you can purchase traditional Belizean gifts from the islands very own shopping village.
Very much the new kid on the block, Ocean Cay was opened in November 2019 by MSC Cruises as a marine reserve 'designed to show our appreciation to the environment and ensure we are all doing our part to take care of our planet'.
Extensive work went in to ensuring that the impact on the environment was minimised througout the development of the island which is surrounded by protected waters teeming with marine life.
There is no shortage of things to do whilst you spend time ashore on the island, with eight world class beaches on which to relax, various sporting activities both on land and in the water,
Authentic Bahamian cuisine can be enjoyed in a selection of eateries alongside international cuisine whilst there are multiple bars and even a network of food trucks spread across the island.
A spa and private cabanas cater for those who want to relax whilst a trip to the top if the iuslands lighthouse will allow you to take in stunning views of the island the surrounding oceans. Shopping at a special straw market will allow you to pick up some traditional souvenirs to take back home.
As a new resort, further activities are expected to be added in the near future.
Perfect Day at CocoCay
Perfect Day at CocoCay - also known as Little Stirrup Cay - is located in the Bahamas and is operated by Royal Caribbean.
A $200 million overhaul of the island has created one of the top destinations in the Caribbean for families with a number of attractions that are sure to provide fun for visitors of all ages.
That includes no fewer than 13 different waterslides with Daredevil’s Peak being the tallest in North America at some 135 feet. The island is also home to the largest freshwater pool in the Bahamas as well as the biggest wave pool in the Caribbean.
There is also a smaller splash area for smaller children, whilst those who would prefer to relax can head for Chill Island or South Beach to lie back on golden sands or to take a refreshing dip in the tropical waters of the sea.
Aside from the various water-based activities, there is a 1,600ft zipline that runs across the island whilst Up, Up and Away provides an experience like no other - with the huge helium filled balloon providing visitors with a chance to head 450ft into the air to look down across the island below.
A range of dining options are available on the island, whilst overnight stays are expected to be introduced at a later date as part of the ongoing improvement works.
To book a cruise that visits any of these destinations, get in touch with our expert team today!