Who hasn’t dreamed of having their own private island — a personal paradise dusted with sugar-fine sand, perpetually shaded by swaying palm trees? While I fear it’ll be a while before I can afford my own Caribbean kingdom, I did have the opportunity to savor island living on a recent cruise to Great Stirrup Cay, an island owned by Norwegian Cruise Line in the Bahamas.
Packing should be light for a stop at Great Stirrup Cay, as everything you’ll need for the perfect beach day, save for sunscreen, you’ll find ashore. The main beach and watersports hub is near the cruise port and brims with opportunities to rent paddleboards, snorkel gear and pedal boats. Lounging is also on the list of activities and is most enjoyed in a reclining beach chair shaded by a clamshell canopy or in a larger cabana. The latter form a cluster overlooking the land, and come complete with lounge chairs, floats, water and fruit; consider it your waterfront oasis for the day.
Hungry? Head to the all-you-can-eat seaside buffet (lunch is included with your cruise, so don’t be afraid to pile your plate) if you need more than fruit to keep you satiated. Opportunities to work off the calories and work up a sweat are nearby at the volleyball nets or at the Berried Treasure Bazaar, where brisk walking and souvenir shopping double as exercise. Or continue indulging at the water’s edge Bacardi Bar, where mango piña coladas are a sweet take on the traditional recipe and interactive games and DJ-spun music add to the cheery atmosphere.
If this also sounds a little too energetic and you’re craving something a little quieter, you’re in luck. Just steps away is my preferred roost on Great Stirrup Cay: Lagoon Beach.
Amid the postcard-perfect backdrop — with its talcum sands and water so impossibly turquoise it looks digitally altered — is a tiny white-sand “island” fit for mid-lagoon sunbathing. Best of all? Its distance from the shore means you’ll likely have your pick of lounge chairs since most people never venture this far (I’m guessing it has something to do with the aforementioned Bacardi Bar).
A couple of hours of indulging in sun, sand and Caribbean cocktails turned out to be exactly what I needed. I let my cares float away in the tepid, blue waters and warmed my body under the Bahamian sun, as seagulls called from the cloudless sky and the occasional crab skittered sideways. And as the bartender appeared with another round of drinks, I looked around and thought: Life is good.