Known for its luxury ocean liners, cutting-edge onboard attractions, and kids-sail-free cruise deals, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) also has a lot of offer on dry land, too—especially at Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian’s private island in the Bahamas.
On many of NCL’s Caribbean cruises and Bahamas cruises, including on the brand-new Norwegian Prima, you’ll stop at Great Stirrup Cay for an exciting beach day. Whether you’re traveling as a family with kids or on an adults-only trip, there’s plenty to do on the island, including zip lining, relaxing in a private cabana, and enjoying a BBQ lunch right along the shore.
Here’s what is (and isn’t) included when you visit Great Stirrup Cay on a family cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line, plus which activities are best for kids and teens.
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Arriving at Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian’s Private Island
If there’s one obvious downside to Great Stirrup Cay compared to Disney’s Castaway Cay and Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day at CocoCay, it’s that you have to take a tender boat to reach the island. You’ll be asked to choose a tender time the day before your ship arrives at the port, which can be done at guest services, on your stateroom TV, or via the Norwegian Cruise Line app.
Before heading to the tender ship, you’ll gather in a common space onboard the ship and wait for your tender number to be called. After a short boat ride from the ship to the island, you’ll be dropped off at a pier and welcomed to Great Stirrup Cay. The walk from the tender pier to the main beaches is pretty long, so wear comfortable footwear.
What to Bring to Great Stirrup Cay
Before boarding your tender, you’ll be able to check out beach towels to bring onto the island. (Upon returning to the ship, you’ll return your towels to a crew member just past the security checkpoint.) You’ll also want to bring other beach essentials with you—think sunscreen, beach bags, water bottles, a sun hat, and a coverup.
You will also need to bring your photo ID and your cruise ship room key so you can get back onto the ship. If you think you may want a morning snack, you should bring it with you from the ship as well, because dining and snack areas do not open on the island until 11:30 a.m.
Getting around Great Stirrup Cay
The only way to get around Great Stirrup Cay is to walk. And while there are signs directing you to certain areas of interest on the island, such as the snorkeling cove and restaurants, it’s best to stick to the sidewalk to be able to find the main points of interest.
What’s Included at Great Stirrup Cay
Every guest that goes ashore at Norwegian Cruise Line’s private island in the Bahamas is provided with towels (carried from the ship), lounge chairs, beachside BBQs and other restaurants, and multiple beaches. If you bring your own snorkel gear you can enjoy the underwater snorkel garden for free, otherwise you’ll need to rent the proper equipment from one of the stands on Great Stirrup Cay.
What’s Not Included at Great Stirrup Cay
Even though your BBQ lunch and beach chair set-up are included in the cost of the cruise, there are a lot of things that are not included when you visit NCL’s private island. If you wish to zip line over the island or float in the ocean on a mat, both activities are an additional cost. And unless you have purchased the onboard drink package, all alcoholic beverages and virtually all non-alcoholic drinks are not included on the private island either. (Complimentary coffee and water are served with meals.)
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Families looking for a semi-private space of their own can book one of the many cabanas that run along Great Stirrup Cay’s beaches for an additional fee. Adults can also book a spa treatment like a massage and charge it to their stateroom. Other port adventures like swimming with pigs at the nearby Treasure Island, paddle boarding, kayaking, and other water sports also cost extra.
Silver Cove Cabanas and Spa Treatments
If you want an elevated luxury experience on Great Stirrup Cay, you should consider booking a cabana at Silver Cove, the island’s resort-style oasis area. Here, you can rent oceanside or lagoon villas that come with air conditioning and ocean views. Silver Cove is also where you will find the Mandara Spa, a reception room for cabana guests, two exclusive bars, and one exclusive restaurant.
Family Areas at Great Stirrup Cay
Because Norwegian Cruise Line’s entire private island is family-friendly, Great Stirrup Cay makes no distinction between family beaches and adult beaches. There are no adults-only beaches on the island.
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That said, some areas are more family-friendly than others by nature of their location or amenities. If you want natural shade while at the beach, head to the first stretch of the beach closer to the ship where palm trees provide some cover. Farther along the beach near the Guy Harvey-painted lighthouse and beyond, beach loungers are in direct sun with no umbrellas or shade.
To make sure you snag a spot in the shade, book the first tender time to get to the smaller beach near the Patron tequila bar or rent an umbrella at a section of beach near the end of the island farthest from the ship.
Is There a Kid’s Club on Great Stirrup Cay?
While Norwegian’s cruise ships that visit Great Stirrup Cay do have an onboard kids club, the island does not. This is one area where Disney’s Castaway Cay has a distinct advantage for families. There are also no pools, water slides, splash pads, or playgrounds on the island, unlike Royal Caribbean’s neighboring island, Perfect Day at Coco Cay.
Dining Options at Great Stirrup Cay
There are multiple dining options that everyone can enjoy at Great Stirrup Cay, along with a few that are exclusive to Silver Cove and Mandara Spa guests. Dining typically doesn’t open until 11:30 a.m. on Norwegian’s private island and snacks are not available on the island before that time either.
Jumbey Beach Grill
Jumbey Beach Grill is the main buffet on the island. The fare here includes grilled chicken, burgers, hot dogs, and cold salads. Occasionally you may also encounter less standard fare, such as grilled langoustines (a saltwater shellfish similar in appearance to crayfish).
If you’re looking for Mexican food for lunch, Abaco Taco is located near the tequila bar and serves up individual tacos. These may not be gourmet tacos but they will keep you full until you get back to the ship.
Tropic Like It’s Hot
This is the island’s food truck that serves dishes with a Caribbean twist. Entrees include a grilled mahi-mahi fish sandwich and Caribbean ceviche.
Silver Cove Restaurant and Bar
The Silver Cove Restaurant is an exclusive dining option for those who have rented Silver Cove cabanas or booked an on-island spa treatment. The restaurant serves an upscale BBQ with foods that cannot be found anywhere else on the island, such as grilled lobster tail and jumbo shrimp ceviche.
Bars at Great Stirrup Cay
There are six bars on Great Stirrup Cay and they all serve beachy drinks that are mostly pre-mixed. Three of the four bars are sponsored by brands like Bacardi rum, Patron tequila, and Moet champagne, the latter of which is only accessible to Silver Cove guests.
How to Plan Your Day at Great Stirrup Cay
The best way to ensure a good visit to Norwegian’s private island is to plan your day there in advance. This is especially important because there’s no Wi-Fi on the island. You can get a map of Great Stirrup Cay from your stateroom host before you disembark and use it to familiarize yourself with the layout of the island. While the map does not show operating times, it does show locations of interest.