How to Spend a Day on CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s Private Island

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Photo credit: Kim Orlando

If you’re among the luckiest of cruisers headed to the Bahamas, you’ll have the pleasure of experiencing “CocoCay”. Recently renovated and exclusive to Royal Caribbean cruises, this top-notch private island boasts North America’s highest waterslide, a hot air balloon ride, zip lines and even underwater music. Whether you’re itching for an adrenaline rush or just want to relax in luxury next to the bright blue Caribbean ocean, take note of our recommendations for a day at CocoCay that every family member will deem as unforgettable.

The Navigator of the Seas docked at CocoCay.
The Navigator of the Seas. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

Disclosure: The writer was hosted by Royal Caribbean for the purposes of writing this review. All opinions are her own.

CocoCay Bahamas

Having a private island in the Bahamas is the standard for Caribbean cruiselines, but Royal Caribbean has taken the private island game up a notch with the $250 million upgrade of CocoCay (pronounced co-co-key). The Perfect Day Island includes a waterpark with North America’s highest water slide, an air balloon ride, a huge pool and a gorgeous upscale section.

The island used by Royal Caribbean ships, including their new Wonder of the Seas, as well as Celebrity cruise ships solely for their passengers, really does have something for just about everyone. And, I suppose, if you include the option for cruise passengers to stay onboard and have a huge ship and all of the onboard waterslides pretty much to yourselves, you can say there is something for everyone during a day spent in port at CocoCay. (Some cruises starting in September 2019 will get two stops at the island. A few will even get a nighttime stop, complete with an island barbeque, fire dancers and fireworks.)

I took advantage of my son being home from college and visited as guests of Royal Caribbean International onboard the Navigator of the Seas. Our 4-night cruise from Miami to the Eastern Caribbean included one stop in Nassau and another at CocoCay.

Read More: The Complete Guide to Planning a Family Cruise

A Perfect Day at CocoCay

Royal Caribbean promises passengers a “perfect day at CocoCay.” And that’s just what my college-age son and I had. We spent the full day on the island, sliding, eating, swimming and zip lining. Here’s what we loved and what you need to know.

The CocoCay waterpark
The CocoCay waterpark. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

Thrill Waterpark on CocoCay

Take a beautiful Bahamas blue sky and mix it with a multi-colored waterpark for a picture-perfect day on the island.  Thrill Waterpark is home to the 135-foot tall Daredevil’s Peak, which Royal Caribbean says is North America’s tallest water slide. My son loved it. I thought about joining him, ok,I thought about it for like 2 seconds but there was no way.  I knew that I would have talked myself out of it by the time i reached the top step.  (Note: You’ll be hoofing it up the stairs for every one of those 135 feet to the top of the tower!)

My son said he wished his brother and sister were along so he could have raced them down the side-by-side Splash Speedway slides. More power to them!

I redeemed myself on the Slingshot which seats 4 people inside an inflatable float and slings the float into the air- a real adrenalin rush. That was plenty scary enough for me, although I would have done it again. But I am never going on the one where the floor drops out. I see no reason to do that. Ever.

We skipped the humongous wave pool, which Royal Caribbean says is the largest wave pool in the Caribbean and opted for a dip in the ocean.  The waves there are much calmer, but the water was warm, clear and gorgeous. When we were done swimming, we grabbed two of the many lounge chairs for a chill and argued over whether we should head back to Daredevil’s Peak for another thrill.

The waterpark, which is an additional fee, also has a kid-friendly obstacle course pool.

My son and I on CocoCay.
My son and I on CocoCay. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

The Pool

Oasis Lagoon, which Royal says is the largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean, comes complete with swim-up bar and in-pool loungers. There also are plenty of lounge chairs and umbrellas on dry ground surrounding the pool. For a more upscale experience, you can rent a cabana, with private service. We were happy finding a spot on one of the pool “islands.”

Another cool pool feature: Sounds Beneath the Surface. Stick your head underwater to hear the music!

The pool has a zero-depth entry for little ones.

Chill Island

There’s no need to head back to the ship for lunch. Just head over to the beach, where you’ll find surprisingly good burgers, delicious roasted vegetables and greek salad at Snack Shack.  Food at this beachside grill is included in the cruise price, although drinks are not. There’s also quick eats in the waterpark at Chill Grill, although we didn’t eat there.

Chill Island also is the place on the island to rent water play equipment, like jet skis or snorkeling and kayaking gear.

Up, up and away on CocoCay.
Up, up and away on CocoCay. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

Up Up and Away

The island has two ways to get high, both at an upcharge. There’s a 1600-foot zip line — up to 50 feet high — and a helium balloon, dubbed “Up, Up and Away” that soars 450 feet into the air. There was too much wind for a helium balloon ride but my son and I did strap in for a zip line adventure over the waterpark. There are three zip lines crisscrossing the island. I don’t love heights but the staff were terrific at distracting me so I almost got used to the ride. Sitting through a passing thunder shower 100 feet in the air didn’t help, but I finished strong.

SheBuysTravel Tip 1: Bring closed-toe shoes if you want to go zip lining — they’re required. Opt for water shoes, since the zip line ends in a “water landing.”

SheBuysTravel Tip 2: While everything on the island is paid for with your ship card, you can bring your phone and other valuables with you. There are free lockers on the island for storing those valuable while you zip and swim and jump over the waves.

Read more: Tips for planning a family cruise on Royal Caribbean

Upping the CocoCay Experience

For a luxury experience on CocoCay, head to Coco Beach Club and rent one of the overwater cabanas, complete with a slide into the aqua blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. This area also is home to another of the dining venues, a spa and an infinity pool that blurs the lines between the beach and sea.

Caribbean-Style Shopping

There’s a cute little shopping market that sells the kind of touristy things you would expect to find in an open air Caribbean market, along with the requisite hair braiding stall. What’s a trip to the Caribbean without getting your daughter’s hair braided? Or yours?

Having fun aboard the Navigator of the Seas on the way to CocoCay.
Having fun aboard the Navigator of the Seas. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

Cruising to CocoCay

The thrills aren’t limited to CocoCay. Our Royal Caribbean cruise, onboard the newly refurbished Navigator of the Seas, has its own: the longest waterslide at sea. Perhaps because my son and I cruised in May before school was out for the summer, we pretty much had The Blaster aqua coaster to ourselves. We loved it! We spent a half day going on that slide, over and over again. There are two other slide experiences — the side by side Perfect Storm waterslides and the Riptide headfirst mat racer.

The ship also has an adult-only section, With more adults than kids on our cruise, it’s not surprising that the adults-only pool was overrun. I would expect that not to be the case on cruises during heavier family travel times, like summer and school break weeks.

Cabin aboard the Navigator of the Seas, headed to CocoCay.
Our cabin aboard the Navigator of the Seas. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

Family Friendly Features of the Navigator of the Seas

Our cabin was small, but the king size bed could be split into two twins — an important point for a mother traveling with her adult son.

If you’re traveling with a big, multigenerational family group (cruises are great for multigen trips!), try the escape room. It could be a fun family bonding experience as you work together to get yourselves out. If you don’t have enough people to fill all of the slots, expect to be put in a group with other cruisers.

Another option is to take the family for a rousing game of laser tag. Depending on your family dynamics, you could choose to be on the same team or break up into two different teams and shoot at each other. To each his own.

The included dining offered plenty of tasty fare. It was a good thing on our cruise because the upcharge dining rooms were almost all booked. We did get a chance to try the steakhouse and would eat there again. My son said the steak was perfectly cooked and tasty and there were seafood options for me since I rarely eat red meat. Expect to pay prices approximating restaurant prices if you dine at one of the fine dining restaurants onboard.

SheBuysTravel Tip: If, like us, you forget to book dinner reservations before you board the ship, fear not! People cancel their reservations all the time. Just keep checking back to see if anything has opened up. Or head to the restaurant 30 minutes before closing time to see if they will seat you.

Kim Orlando, founder of SheBuysTravel, is a lifelong traveler, an entrepreneur and a sought-after social media and marketing consultant. She has made hundreds of appearances on TV and in digital and print media, sharing advice and tips built on decades of travel experiences. Hailing from the hills of Kentucky and taking her story to New York, Los Angeles, and beyond, Kim built an online platform, the original TravelingMom, that has reached millions of moms and empowered them to explore the world with their families. Today, TravelingMom has evolved into SheBuysTravel. Kim has been featured on “News Nation,” “Today,” “Good Morning America” and on numerous satellite media tours. She has contributed travel guidance to outlets including The Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, Forbes, the Wall Street Journal and more. (Read more about Kim’s media appearances here) Her travel mantra is simple: All travel counts. “You don’t have to go far. Leaving your home is travel,” Kim says. “Wherever you go, even just to the next town over, you can learn something new, see someone and something you haven’t seen before. “It’s good for the brain and good for the soul.” An epiphany in early parenthood started Kim on the journey that led to SheBuysTravel. She’d been a fan of a newsletter for women travelers, and she saw an opportunity. “I thought something like that for moms could be extraordinarily helpful,” she said. “I was traveling for work, traveling for fun, and I was looking for support.” That seed grew into the award-winning website TravelingMom, created as a resource for traveling families of all stripes. Today, TravelingMom has evolved into SheBuysTravel, with an expanded mission to serve women travelers at any stage of life. Millions of readers have visited the site for trip planning help, travel secrets, destination information and gear recommendations. What sets SheBuysTravel’s content apart, Kim says, is its foundation in real-world experience. “Our writers and editors have actually gone out there and done this stuff,” she says. “They’ve booked the flights, tried the tour, tested travel clothing, visited that new hot spot to see if it’s worth the hype. It’s all real.” Memorable Adventures A 2022 tour Kim guided to Bhutan was a particularly standout experience. “Bhutan sounds so exotic, of course,” she said. “But the part where my heart just glows and warms is thinking of the people we met – amazing women doing amazing things in Bhutan.” Their ranks included a former police officer whose ventures into food science helped mitigate food insecurity for residents of Bhutan’s highlands. Top Tips Planning for travel can be daunting, Kim acknowledges. “I always say: Go anyway. No trip is going to be perfect. There’s always going to be something you didn’t expect, something that doesn’t go the way you pictured or planned it. And that something is what’s going to make it a great trip.” And on a practical note: “Go early! Getting to the airport or hitting the road just an hour earlier relieves so much stress.” Kim’s Background Kim, a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management, holds degrees in finance and entrepreneurship and has deep experience in developing and running businesses. Her previous work includes developing and running communications workshops and overseeing document management for corporations. SheBuysTravel hits a sweet spot where Kim’s two loves of travel and entrepreneurship meet. “The longer I work in this field, I only want to do more,” she says. “I find the travel world so exciting – not just the trips, but the whole online world of travel. There are still so many opportunities.” The World Awaits “The ‘best trip ever’ probably won’t be the same for an empty-nester or mom of three versus a single woman celebrating a bachelorette party with her friends,” Kim says. “We want to keep it real for traveling women, no matter what their age, life stage, where they came from or where they’re going. “We want to inspire women to travel in any shape or form.” In her free time, Kim enjoys visiting her adult kids, creating trips and traveling with her BFFs to explore the world. Her most recent adventures can be found on InstagramFacebook and LinkedIn.
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