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Perfect Day in Coco Cay Review

Dec. 06, 2023
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Nonstop Points has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Nonstop Points and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. This post may contain affiliate links; please read our advertiser disclosure for more information

Cruise lines’ private islands fascinate me and I’m quite sure why. I think the concept of being able to get off the ship, hangout at the beach and get food without having to worry about bringing a wallet is a very relaxing concept.

One of the ports of call on our weekend cruise on Liberty of the Seas was Perfect Day at Coco Cay, Royal Caribbean’s private island. It really is an awesome island, so I wanted to share my experience and thoughts about our day there.

This article is part of my Cruise Trip Report: Weekend in the Bahamas including:

Our Day

We were late getting off the ship after taking our time eating breakfast and getting ready. We grabbed some towels and headed to the gangway to disembark. It was an easy walk from the pier around the island.

We walked around the island to become acquainted with its offerings. We found a lounge chair on the beach and headed to the water to cool off as it was quite warm. The water was clear and calm and you could walk out to a sand bar, look at the fish in the water, and we even saw a small reef shark (which doesn’t bite).

While it was cloudy and we had some rain, it was warm and the sun poke itself out from time to time, and eventually come out towards the end of the day. Even with the bit of rain, we weren’t too disappointed, but we didn’t complain, we were in the Bahamas.

We grabbed a snack from the food and snack shacks on the beach, including a salad and fruit, which was quite good. Adjacent to the food area was a basketball court, where we quickly shot some hoops. In the various areas of the island, they had similar set-ups….food venues, basketball courts, lounge chairs, and of course, the water.

For lunch we headed to one of the buffet venues. The tacos were actually really good with a range of protein options, shell options, and toppings. There was also the typical grill cuisine, as well as salads and sandwiches, fruit buffet, and, of course, soft serve ice cream.

After lunch we headed back to the beach and hung around for a little while longer before walking back to the ship to try our luck on the flo rider.

Activities

Although we did not pay for anything additional on the island, there were plenty of options available. Ranging from the waterpark and insane slides (I believe it was actually the largest slide in the eastern hemisphere), to jet skiing, zip-lining, and snorkeling.

There were also more relaxing choices such as floating overwater bungalows with small slides, the island’s private beach club that comes with additional food offerings (and an added cost), as well as an infinite pool. There were a number of rental options including floating mats and cabanas. 

While there were plenty of beach chairs and umbrellas that did not require an added cost, it would be wise to get out to the beach early and mark your territory before the masses come off the ship (or ships) and it becomes more challenging to find enough seats for your entire party. 

There was also a splash playground for the younger folks, as well as a large party pool for those wanting to lounge around in the water and drink. Of course, you can’t forget the pirate ship jungle gym; always a favorite for the young or young at heart.

One interesting offering was a massive helium balloon that allows you to rise high above the island, though still tethered to the ground. It was like a hot air balloon ride but without the drifting. It was also pretty cool to watch. However, it was only operating a portion of the day due to weather conditions.

Of course, you could also drink your way through the day. Drinks bought on the island can be charged to your stateroom, which is quite convenient, and for those with a drink package, it also applies on the island.

My Thoughts

Whether or not you choose to pay for activities, it should be a fun day on the island. From the cold of winter up in DC, spending some time in the warm waters of the Bahamas is very enjoyable.

If it had been better weather, or if I return, I think I would try to pay for an activity such as the water park, but visiting for my first time, I am happy we got to explore.

The food was actually quite good, making me wish the taco options continued back on the boat. The convenience of it being included compared to other ports of call is also a nice perk and stretches the value of your cruise fare even further.

The Last Point

I would happily visit Perfect Day at Coco Cay again and would be excited to see it listed as a port of call on a future cruise. It is a perfect way to relax, and a great thing Royal Caribbean has going for it.

That said, there are cruises exclusively to the island and I do not know whether it is enough of a destination alone to have me interested in that type of cruise. Besides the rain and unfortunate weather, I had as perfect of a day in Coco Cay as possible.

Nonstop Points has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Nonstop Points and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. This post may contain affiliate links; please read our advertiser disclosure for more information

If you’re sailing on a Royal Caribbean cruise from practically anywhere on the East Coast, then it’s almost assured that you’re going to make a stop at Perfect Day at CocoCay — the cruise line’s private island.

Now I’ve been fortunate enough to visit this spot countless times, including well before the island was completely transformed into what it is today. So what do I think people will wish they knew before they visited? Here are the things I wish I knew before visiting for the first time…

Lay of the Land

First up is that if you’re visiting for the first time, you’re going to want to know a general layout of CocoCay. The place is big, with several different areas. There are maps around the island, and you can also find them online. I’d highly suggest just checking one out to get some idea of where things sit.

I like to think of it as three different sections, although Royal Caribbean might disagree. The first section is Chill Island and Oasis Lagoon, which is the huge pool. These spots go from the center of the island to the left as you look from the ship. It’s where the vast majority of free things to do around the island are located.

Second is the Thrill Waterpark, which is by far the most attention-catching area with the huge tower with waterslides spiraling around it. The waterpark costs extra — more on that in a moment — but it’s one of the most popular areas.

Third is the backside of the island. Here is where the Coco Beach Club — a fee-based area — and the free South Beach sit.

There’s a tram that runs around CocoCay, taking you from spot to spot, but it’s still a good idea to have a mental map when you’re exploring.

There’s Lots That Is Free

Make no mistake, Royal Caribbean transformed CocoCay to make money, and there are plenty of opportunities to spend… a lot. But one thing I’m glad I know after visiting is that there is a nice balance between free and paid. Frankly, if you want to visit and not spend a dime, you can still have a full day.

Specifically, most food is free. The beach and loungers are free, as are the beach games. The pool is free, and so is the kids splash pad and the pirate ship on the island. Now, anything more active like the waterpark, zip lines, or special places like cabanas or the beach club definitely cost extra.

But it’s nice to know if you don’t want to spend more, you absolutely can still have a lot of fun.

The Waterpark Prices

One thing I think anyone is going to want to realize is that Royal Caribbean is very proud of the waterpark… and that shows in the pricing.

The cruise line uses dynamic pricing, so there isn’t a set price for admission. Instead, it depends on your specific visit and the prices can be eye-watering. I’ve personally seen prices as high as $161 on cruises. But I’ve heard from passengers that report prices even higher — above $200 per person.

Now, I don’t know for sure, but I expect that these prices are so high to help limit the crowds somewhat and reduce lines. After all, if you were to go to a waterpark in Orlando you’d pay around $50-80 per person for an experience that’s much bigger than Thrill Waterpark.

Drink Packages and Wi-Fi Extend to the Island

One big value on CocoCay that anyone is going to want to know before they visit is that your onboard drink package and wi-fi package will work on the island.

Normally these things only work on the ship. So when you’re in port all day, you pay for the drink package but don’t get to use it. Same thing with wi-fi. That’s not the case on CocoCay. Instead, you get to squeeze an extra day out of the services, just as if you were on the ship.

Make it Two Days on CocoCay

It took me several times visiting CocoCay before I realized what I think is the best way to enjoy the island.

When you port, you’ll spend a full day docked. Usually from around 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. By far the busiest hours are between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. So come around 2 o’clock, you’ll notice things die down considerably. Yet it’s still a long time until the ship leaves.

That’s why I break down my time there into two day. First, I like to go out and enjoy the morning before things get too crowded. There’s plenty of room around, it’s not too hot out, and you can figure out what you like around the island. Then, after eating lunch, I head back to the ship.

There, I spend a couple of hours in the cabin, take a siesta, and avoid the middle of the day when things are busiest and hottest.

At around 2 p.m., I’ll head back out for my “second day.” By this time there is still plenty of sun and people, but crowds are starting to thin out. Plus, I get a second wind instead of being toast from sitting in the sun all day.

The Island Can Get Busy

CocoCay is a hit among passengers and Royal Caribbean. These days, more than half the cruise line’s sailings visit. Royal Caribbean said that they average 11,000 people a day and plan to add more capacity with a new section opening soon.

That means there are usually two large ships visiting on any given day. The good thing is that there is plenty of space around the island. So no, you aren’t going to be standing shoulder to shoulder on the beach. But you can definitely still feel the crowds and some spots will be packed. Specifically, the bar area in the Oasis Lagoon pool can get packed.

The Pool Is Not Heated

One thing I wish I knew before I visited in the winter is that Oasis Lagoon — the huge freshwater pool on CocoCay — is not heated. It never gets too cold in The Bahamas, but as someone who grew up in the south, I am not equipped to handle cold water.

A February trip to the island ended up with me spending more time in the ocean as it was actually warmer to me than swimming in the pool.

Beach Recommendations for CocoCay

If you’re excited about hitting the beach, you’re not alone. It’s a huge draw. They are white sand with calm, blue water. What’s not to like? But, two things I wish I knew before I ever visited are a couple of beach tips.

One, if you want the best beach, then I’d recommend South Beach. It’s on the far side of the island, so the crowds are a bit smaller. But it also has all the features you want. Lots of room, a bar close by, restrooms, a restaurant, and lots of beach games. Other beaches have those as well, but here, it is all self-contained. When I noticed that the ship’s entertainment crew members seemed to congregate here when relaxing, that said it all.

Second, if want the calmest beach, then check out Harbor Beach. It’s smack in the middle of CocoCay. Because the water is from an inlet instead of the open ocean, it’s always completely calm. As well, I get the impression most people want to sit on the beaches on the outside of the island, so it seems like the number of people here is just a fraction of what’s found elsewhere.

Where the “Party” Spots Are

Are you the sort of person that wants to party? Or maybe you’re the sort of person that wants to avoid that scene? Either way, one thing you’ll wish you knew are the party spots on CocoCay. To be sure, it’s not exactly Bourbon Street, but two spots in particular seem to get a big more festive.

First, the Oasis Lagoon pool has a swim-up bar that’s very popular and will by far be the most crowded spot in the entire pool. 

Second, one lesser-known spot is a floating bar located in the water off South Beach. It’s essentially a floating island with booze. (Literally the bartender has to kayak into shore to go get ice.) I’ve found it can get pretty busy and loud. If you want that, then it’s your spot. If not, then you’ll know to avoid it.

Cabanas Come With Perks

I’ll be honest, this isn’t something I wish I knew, simply because I don’t plan on spending the cash for a cabana on CocoCay, which start at around $1,000 for the day. 

However, if you are in the market, then you will want to know that these cabanas can come with some perks you may not realize. For example, when you opt for the $1,000 cabana at Thrill Waterpark, you get the space, but it also comes with six entrances to the waterpark. Considering that admission is $100 or more a day, that means you’re paying just a fraction for the actual cabana.

Same thing with the cabanas at the Coco Beach Club. These are pricier, but also include the expensive admission to the club for up to eight.

What to Know About Food

If you’re wondering about food, well you have several options that you may not realize. First, the vast majority of food is free. During the day there is a buffet served with things like burgers, dogs, and the like. There are also smaller spots called Snack Shacks that serve chicken sandwiches, fries, funnel cake, and more. All of this is free.

What I’ve learned is that the Snack Shacks, which are essentially like little fast food spots, serve up stuff that to me just seems better than the larger buffet and without the hassle of dealing with the crowds.

If you want higher-end dining, then you have a couple of options. First, you can head back to the ship. It’s not a far walk and restaurants on board are still operating even though you’re in port. Second, the highest-end dining is in the Coco Beach Club. There’s an admission fee to this private area that’s around $150 per person. But one thing included is lunch, which can be steak, lobster, and more. You know, for those times when a burger just doesn’t cut it.

More on Visiting CocoCay:

Perfect Day in Coco Cay Review

What I Wish I Knew Before Visiting CocoCay (Royal ...

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