Inside Royal Caribbean's Private Isle Makeover

As one 40ish male cruise guest was propelled out of the Dueling Demons waterslide at Royal Caribbean International’s new Perfect Day at CocoCay, he created a huge splash, but jumped up, laughing almost hysterically. In fact, he paced back and forth and couldn’t stop laughing, causing the teenage girl exiting the adjacent water slide to just grin while staring at his end-of-ride performance. 

So, Travel Agent asked him, “How was it?” Still laughing, out of breath and shaking his head, he uttered just one word: “Terrifying.” That was followed by more laughter as he strolled off. Clearly, the new private island experience delivers the goods when it comes to the thrill factor. 

With $250 million in enhancements and updates, the new Perfect Day at CocoCay was unveiled this past spring, with more new features including overwater cabanas coming in December. While the slides and other thrill attractions are a top draw, an anecdotal survey of multiple guests on our four-night Navigator of the Seas’ cruise revealed that they really liked the multi-faceted island experience including quieter, chill-out spots for a relaxing beach or freshwater pool experience, plus several family attractions. Here’s a look at some of the highlights of Perfect Day at CocoCay.  

Thrill Waterpark: A visible symbol of Perfect Day at CocoCay is the island’s red 135-foot-high Daredevil’s Peak, North America’s highest water slide; the tower structure houses other slides as well. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart. Guests wishing to take the plunge must climb up multiple staircases within the structure’s interior to reach the top. 

Not surprisingly, the slide is wildly popular with guests eager to go home and tell friends, neighbors and relatives they survived the plunge, so expect some lines. On our visit, a day when one Royal Caribbean ship was docked, an anecdotal survey of guests revealed wait times of 10-15 minutes in the late afternoon but from 30 to 45 minutes during peak morning hours. 

Beyond that slide, cruisers can also get their thrills on any of 12 other water slides, including Dueling Demons, Manta Raycers or Screeching Serpent (for a full vertical water slide), as well as Green Mamba with an aqua tube slide. Adventurous families can head for Splash Summit to share the thrills with six multi-rider slides, including The Slingshot, a zero-gravity slide for four; The Twister, a winding tube slide for two on a tandem raft; and the four-lane Splash Speedway racing slides. Minimum height for slides ranges from 40 to 48 inches, and some have a maximum weight restriction. 

The Thrill Waterpark also is home to the Wave Pool, which was a hit with guests of all ages during our visit. If cruisers opt not to go to any of the beach areas, they can simply spend the day here with sun loungers, beach umbrellas and nearby covered picnic tables. Separately, at the waterpark’s Adventure Pool, travelers will discover an interactive obstacle course on water with floating lily pads, a rock-climbing wall and two swing ropes for guests to bounce, climb and swing. 

During our visit, a Thrill Waterpark full-day pass cost $59.99 per person; it offers access to the area of the island that includes 13 waterslides, the Wave Pool and Adventure Pool. Wristbands are issued to pass holders so they can enter and exit as they so choose — allowing them to enjoy other island activities too. Thrill Waterpark Cabanas are also available for $499 each for up to six guests.

One of the most exciting features of the Thrill Waterpark is the 135-foot-high Daredevil’s Tower, North America’s highest water slide. 

Zip Line & Helium Balloon: For a different type of thrill, the island has a 1,600-foot-long zip-line course that crisscrosses the island; it begins near the arrivals plaza and ends across the harbor. Cruisers can choose between a dry landing or a wet one in the water.  The cost is $89.99 per person. 

For aerial fans, the new Up, Up and Away helium balloon ride will take cruisers 450 feet into the air for spectacular views of the island, ship and azure waters of the Bahamas; the balloon is tethered to the island by cable, so guests need have no fear of soaring away. The ride costs $49.99 for adults, $34.99 for kids 4-12.  

Family Fun: Seeking complimentary family fun? Kids of all ages should love Captain Jill’s Galleon, an interactive play structure in the shape of a pirate ship, located near the arrivals area. It has three dry slides, 16 water cannons, rope features and a splash pad. Watch out if walking on the adjacent sidewalk through the park as it’s clearly a drench zone. Nearby between Captain Jack’s and Skipper’s Grill, both tasty eateries, is Splashaway Bay, a fun kids’ waterpark with fountains, sprinklers, geysers, drench buckets and five waterslides, including three racers. It too is complimentary. 

Families will find plenty of restrooms, beverage stations and a first aid station for any minor scrapes. We also caught up with two, family-friendly pirates watching the action at one of the pools and enjoyed watching kids and adults alike enjoy live Bahamian music and dancing upon entry to the island.  

Different Beach Areas: For a quieter, more relaxing island experience, just head for one of the island’s different beach area or coves, each with its own ambiance. Clients will find soft sandy beaches, Caribbean-style bars, loungers with umbrellas and more. Guests can play beach volleyball, nestle into loungers or even a bean bag and rent water floats. 

Chill Island has a lovely sandy beach and Chill Grill, the island’s largest dining venue, which is complimentary and has shaded tables on the sand. Chill Island also is the place for snorkeling or for jet ski excursions. Access to this area is complimentary, but for those wanting a bit more pampering experience, rentals of Chill Island Cabanas come with two chaise lounges, a sectional sofa, cocktail table, combination lock lid and USB outlet. Daily rental is $399 for up to eight guests. 

At South Beach, the second beach venue, cruisers will find volleyball, beachside basketball, soccer and paddle boarding. It has a Snack Shack, which is complimentary to guests. While this area is still under development, we took the shuttle from the arrivals area to this beach spot and found it lovely — a palm tree setting, hammocks, plenty of space to spread out, beach loungers (Some with umbrellas) and a laid-back feel. Travel Agent watched as an instructor led adults and kids through stretching/yoga exercises and children participated in a beach eco-activity supervised by a kids’ club counselor.   

Highly anticipated is the December opening of the adjacent Coco Beach Club with overwater cabanas, a 2,600-square-foot infinity pool with in-water loungers and a club and deck area with beachside cabanas and day beds.

Oasis Lagoon, Harbor Beach & More: The lovely Oasis Lagoon is the Caribbean’s largest freshwater pool. It’s between the Coco Beach Club and Harbor Beach. Cruisers will love this area — free for all to access with loungers, umbrellas and beach towels. Those who wish to rent cabanas can also do so. Nearby is the curved Harbor Beach, nestled into an interior cove. 

Visitors will have a great view of Harbor Beach from the outside seating at Captain Jack’s, an open-air but covered watering hole that’s a great spot to grab a Bahama Mama and listen to live music. 

More New Island Experiences

Opening November 9 is MSC Cruises’ new Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, a new Bahamian private island. It will have seven beach areas including the largest, Great Lagoon Beach and half-mile-long-plus Great Bimini Beach, both with water sports. Seakers Lagoon Beach is designed for families and young children with calm waters and a dedicated entertainment area, while Sunset Beach will have a lively vibe and lighthouse views. And for a massage or facial, cruisers can head to Spa Beach. Among the many Ocean Cay bars will be Springer’s, an authentic Bahamian bar in the Marina, and Lighthouse, a Hemingway-style cocktail bar delivering sea views. For those seeking a sweet treat, the Smiling Fish Ice Cream Parlour awaits. 

MSC Marine Reserve will have seven beach areas.

Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve will also have a wedding pavilion rentable for nuptials or renewal of vows ceremonies. In addition, with the line’s new Martha Stewart partnership, MSC Cruises will offer a Stuart-branded Ocean Cay excursion that incorporates some of Stewart’s favorite activities as well as Bahamian culture elements.

Also look for major renovations this year at Great Stirrup CayNorwegian Cruise Line’s private Bahamian island. Part of the Norwegian Edge program, the updates include an exclusive, tranquil lagoon retreat on a secluded beach; beachfront luxury villas ranging from air-conditioned studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom villas; a modern reception area overlooking the beach; the Mandara Spa with signature services; a family beach; and enhanced specialty dining.

Clients also can enjoy sun, sand and surf at other private isle experiences in the Caribbean and the Bahamas operated by Disney Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Norwegian, Princess Cruises or Royal Caribbean International; sister brands of some of those lines also use those enclaves, which are refreshed on an annual basis. 

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