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We awoke early in the morning and very quickly realized that our cruise ship had stopped. A look out the porthole window verified that we were indeed moored off the white sand beach of Coco Cay, one of Royal Caribbean’s private islands in the Bahamas. So, after having breakfast in the ship’s dining room, we returned to our cabin to prepare for a day at the beach.
The port at Coco Cay requires passengers to take a tender boat from the ship to the dock. I am confident they do everything they can to get the tourists to the beach as quickly as possible (nobody is spending money while waiting in lines for tender boats), but it can still be a long process to get a couple thousand anxious cruise passengers from the ship to the beach. We took our time in the dining room at breakfast, so the tender boat lines were not too long once we were ready to go ashore.
Once we got to the island, there was an impressive variety of beach activities in which to participate. There was truly something for everyone.
Many guests were content with just grabbing a beach chair or hammock, working on their tan, swimming in the bay and playing on the white sand beach.
If you don’t like roasting in the direct sun, and if you get to the island early enough, you can claim one of the few covered cabanas with nice padded chaise lounges for your group. And, if you miss the opportunity to claim one of the cabanas, there are covered beach chairs available as well.
We were fortunate enough to share a cabana. When you get to our age, you are more concerned about skin cancer and the danger of UV rays than you are about the quality of your tan. So with plenty of sunscreen and the protection of the cabana, we felt pretty sure we would not be doing any serious damage to our skin while on the island.
Once we were “settled in”, we needed to decide what island activities interested us most. A real adventurer would want to experience parasailing around the moored cruise ship. While I would like to do that someday, we decided to save that experience for another trip. Our goal for this cruise was just rest and relaxation.
If we had been looking for more excitement, we may have signed up for a SCUBA dive excursion. There is a sunken airplane and a shipwreck just a short boat ride away from the island. There are also guided wave runner tours, kayak tours, and sailboat rentals for exploring the waters around the island.
For those traveling with young children, there is a water park, Caylanas Aqua Park, where they can climb and jump on a variety of inflatable toys in the bay on the north side of the island. It was fun to watch the kids playing in the park.
Another popular activity on the island is snorkeling. I have read that Coco Cay is a great place for it. The rocky coastline attracts many colorful tropical fish. There is a rental center where you can get all the gear you will need at a reasonable daily rate.
Be prepared to wait until the next mandatory instruction and safety session . But you probably won’t have to wait long, as I saw many sessions running throughout the day.
Coco Cay is a great port of call for those with a tight budget. There are many activities that don’t require you to spend money. You can swim in the bay, play on the beach, play beach volleyball, explore the island on foot or hike the nature trail all at no additional cost.
No cruise ship port of call is without its shopping opportunities! At Coco Cay the shopping area is called the Straw Market. We didn’t find anything especially unique here. There must be a company somewhere in China that specializes in producing products for Caribbean cruise ports. The Straw Market had a pretty good variety of of t-shirts, wraps, souvenirs and trinkets.
Many cruisers have their hair done in braids while visiting the islands. It is always interesting to see the large number of cruise passengers with hair braids the day after the first Caribbean port of call.
For lunch on Coco Cay, we were served an “island-style barbeque” and of course it’s “all you can eat” which is a theme you will quickly pick up on while cruising. There was a large variety of salads, entrees, and deserts. Since it was a hot day on the island, I especially enjoyed the cool and fresh tropical fruits. We enjoyed our lunch, but tried to restrain ourselves somewhat since we would be eating dinner soon back in the ship’s dining room. With all of the eating opportunities available on a cruise, you learn to prioritize! And dinner in the dining room is hard to beat.
By early afternoon, shortly after lunch, we had taken in about all the sun we cared for. So we packed our belongings and headed for the inlet to catch the next tender boat back to the ship. A cold shower and Captain Morgan were waiting for us in our ship’s cabin. We enjoyed our visit to the island and decided to at least do some snorkeling there the next time Coco Cay was one of our ports of call.