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I went to Royal Caribbean’s $250 million private island in the Bahamas and was shocked by how much I loved it

Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private islandPerfect Day at CocoCay’s Thrill Waterpark on Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas draws travelers from many of its cruises.

Brittany Chang/Insider

  • Many of Royal Caribbean’s North American cruises stop at its private island, Perfect Day at CocoCay.
  • The cruise line has seen “exceptionally high” demand for the destination, CEO Michael Bayley said.
  • I visited the island in December 2022 and saw why travelers have been loving the Bahamian getaway.
What would you do if you had $250 million lying around? If you’re Royal Caribbean International, you’d use it to build a private island — exclusive for your guests.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

That’s exactly what the mega cruise brand did in 2019 when it unveiled its own private island in the Bahamas, Perfect Day at CocoCay.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

And so far, it’s been money well spent: CocoCay’s financial returns have been “exceptionally high and significantly above its targeted returns,” Naftali Holtz, Royal Caribbean Group’s CFO, told investors in February.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

Source: Royal Caribbean Group

The island — accessible on Royal Caribbean’s itineraries — is filled with complimentary beaches, food stands, bars, and paid destinations like a private beach club and a water park.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

All of this has attracted a swath of travelers, leading the cruise line to see “exceptionally high” demand for this Bahamian destination, Michael Bayley, its president and CEO, told investors in a recent call.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

Source: Royal Caribbean Group

Many of Royal Caribbean’s North American cruises stop at Perfect Day at CocoCay. And this year, Bayley said the getaway will likely see 2.5 million to 3 million travelers.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

This private island has generated plenty of buzz for Royal Caribbean. And after visiting it in December 2022, I now see why.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

Perfect Day at CocoCay was the only port of call during my complimentary Wonder of the Seas sailing for media and travel agents.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

Before I arrived, I expected an island with amusement park energy: Plenty of attractions for children and plenty of headaches for parents.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

And while some amenities did feel like a theme park, overall, my afternoon on CocoCay was a surprisingly peaceful reprieve from life beyond the waters.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

There was already another Royal Caribbean vessel there when my ship docked. But because the Wonder didn’t sail at full capacity, the island wasn’t cramped with visitors.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

There was the option to take a tram from destination to destination. But I, like the star athlete that I am, decided to walk. Yes, I did regret this.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

At least it brought me through tree-lined walkways and throngs of excited travelers.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

In between the island’s hot attractions — the water park, private club, and beaches — CocoCay had several small slices of respite …Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

… like these quiet hammocks and the open-air lounge with live music and views of a sandy lagoon.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

Let’s start with the Coco Beach Club, which members of the media got to tour.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

The cost of a day pass varies by season. Royal Caribbean did not respond to Insider’s inquiry about the prices of the island’s paid attractions.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

Here, paying guests have access to the beach club’s restaurant, infinity pool, lounge chairs, and bar. The latter is one of 10 on the island.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

You could also ball out on an overwater cabana with a slide into the water.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

If you have the additional money to spend, the beach club could be good for guests who want a quiet afternoon.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

But several of its amenities — like the beachfront lounge chairs and a pool — are already complimentary at other parts of the island.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

If all you want during your trip is a nap on the beach under the sun, just head to the complimentary Chill Island or South Beach.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

Source: Royal Caribbean Group

With rows of brightly colored lounge chairs and umbrellas, these two destinations looked nearly identical to hotel-owned beach clubs that cost a pretty penny to visit.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

But here, I didn’t have to open my wallet to breathe in the salty air and snag a seat on the beach.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

I managed to find a spot in front of the water, giving me an idyllic break from my walk around the island.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

The palm tree-lined walkways, bright blue sky, and quiet buzz from people chatting and laughing made these two complimentary destinations feel like a tropical getaway.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

Sure, it’s not as exclusive as Coco Beach Club. But it gets the job (relaxing by the beach) done.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

For travelers who’d rather move around, there’s also the option to rent snorkeling gear, take a jet ski tour, or even play giant billiards.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

But as someone who was still sweating from her walk under the sun, nothing seemed more appealing than laying on a beach chair.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

If my cruise itinerary had stopped at another island, my afternoon likely would have looked the same: lounging by the water.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

And for this reason, I wouldn’t have substituted my day at Perfect Day at CocoCay with another more publicly accessible destination.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

I’ve always enjoyed going to the beach more than going to a pool.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

But for people who can’t stand the feeling of sand (I’ll never understand you), there’s also Oasis Lagoon.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

Royal Caribbean says it’s the largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean. And at its peak, this “Oasis” felt more like a pool party with loud music and free-flowing booze.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

Ironically, the children’s water playground is right next door.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

Media was given access to Thrill Waterpark during the later half of the afternoon. So off I went, abandoning my prime seat on the beach.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

Like Coco Beach Club, a day at the water park and its pools, beach chairs, and 13 water slides costs extra.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

But once you’re in, you’ll have access to Thrill Waterpark’s crown jewel: Daredevil’s Peak, which Royal Caribbean says is the tallest waterslide in North America.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

After warming up on a few shorter slides, I decided to scale the several floors of stairs and stares to the Daredevil’s Peak slide. At the top, I knew the 135-foot descent would probably be faster than my jaunt up.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

But after convincing the operator I was “cold, not scared,” I quickly realized the slide was no more terrifying than the other ones at the park …Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

… although the fall did feel significantly longer. I might as well have answered a few emails on my way down.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

The second structure at Thrill Waterpark had less intimidating and more family friendly options, including a two-person rafting slide and racing slides.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

Because it wasn’t crowded, I probably could have tried every waterslide in under an hour.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

For the less bold, there’s also a wave pool and a separate pool with an interactive obstacle course.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

Thrill is a great place for families. Teenagers can spend their afternoon on the slides, younger children can wade around the pools, and parents can relax on the beach chairs.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

And much to my surprise, it was also a great place for this mid-20s-year-old to feel like a child again.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

But after I had my turn down the slides, there wasn’t much left for me to do there. I can only bop around the wave pool for so long before wanting a break.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

And I’d much rather take this break on a lounge chair by the beach than by the water park filled with loud music and rowdy children (sorry).Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

After jaunting around the island and down a few slides, I decided to pass on the 1,600-foot-long zipline and helium balloon ride. These both cost extra, anyway.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

But I don’t feel like I missed out on attractions during my time at Perfect Day at CocoCay. As an older Gen Z, I wanted nothing more than to spend my afternoon laying out by the beach.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

Sure, Perfect Day at CocoCay had all the bells and whistles of a cruise line-owned private island.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

But I didn’t feel the need to ball out on a cabana at Coco Beach Club, nor did I want to spend hours at the waterpark.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

The smell of the saltwater, sight of the waves, and pain from the potential sunburns made me enjoy the island’s complimentary beaches more than its paid amenities.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

As far as cruise ship ports go, Perfect Day at CocoCay isn’t rich with Bahamian culture and food.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

Yet, while there was no historic architecture to explore or local culture to immerse myself in, I still found myself enjoying my relatively slow afternoon on the beach.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

There was no need to run around from destination to destination like I have done at other ports of call.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

Here, I could just splash around, take a leisurely stroll, and hope that my sunscreen is doing its job.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

And for that reason, I understand why the cruise line has seen high demand for this slice of Royal Caribbean paradise at sea. This was one of the most leisurely afternoons I had in all of 2022.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

From now until April 2025, 127 cruises will sail with a stop at Perfect Day at CocoCay.Wonder of the Seas

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Source: Royal Caribbean International

And in 2024, the cruise line will unveil an extension of the private island: Hideaway Beach, an adults only section with amenities like a pool and more private cabanas.Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island

Brittany Chang/Insider

Read the original article on Business Insider
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