During a recent 4 night Cruise from Miami Charlene and I were able to visit Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas, a private island that is owned and operated by Norwegian Cruise Lines.
Before we went to the Cay we didn’t have a clue what to expect so we thought a brief overview of our experience would be helpful for people taking Norwegian cruises to that include this private island.
First, if you get the opportunity go to the island, it’s a fun day.
In the morning our cruise line started announcing that ferries to the island were available around 9:00. The Island has two comfortable ferries that take guests from the ship to the Island. From around 9:00 till around 11:00 guests were required to get “tickets” for each ferry over to the island. Basically, they couldn’t accommodate everyone so they handed out numbered tickets and when your ticket number was called you could disembark the ship and go to the island. By 11:00 the hoards were off the boat and open boarding on the ferries began.
Charlene and I wondered onto the ferry about 11:30 so we didn’t have any wait time.
The Island is quasi all-inclusive. What this means is drinks and food are paid for but toys like snorkel gear, floats, and covered lounge chairs are not included. Snorkel gear was around $30 and a clamshell covered lounge chair was $35. Lesson being: bring your own snorkel gear and find a lounge chair under a palm tree.
The island is arranged in a series of coves and for reasons I will never understand 90% or the cruise ship guests never got past the first cove. This of course made the first cove one of the most densely populated beaches on the Island. A five-minute walk brought us to the second cove which was only a little too crowded for our taste and a 10 minute walk brought us to our cove which we shared with about 5 other hearty souls.
Before we began our beach experience we joined our fellow cruisers for lunch. Lunch was classic beach fare offering hamburgers, hot dogs, Bar B Q and assorted salads. Not very good but it’s a picnic. On reflection a nice sit down lunch with white table cloths, a waiter and excellent food prior to catching the ferry would have been a brighter plan.
Having filled our little bellies it was time to enrich our souls with a little soft sand beach, salt water and booze. We began our enrichment at the last cove on the island and as I mentioned we had the pick of lounge chairs and an empty bar to reward us for adventuring the 500 yards to the last cove. The quiet surroundings allowed us to have a nice talk with the bartender who was quite frankly bored. Having a concern for the damage boredom could cause our bartender we ordered two Pina Coladas just to give the guy something to do.
Pina Coladas in hand we wandered down the beach and found our chairs by the sea and under a palm (saving us $35). Some would say a perfect set of lounge chairs. In truth perfect would have been a little closer to the lonely bartender.
After a short rest we walked into the warm, calm, clear water and took a nice long swim. Although I have little doubt that Great Stirrup Cay gets a lot of visitors the water was still pristine and we were surprised by the amount of sea life that was in our little area. During our swim we saw an abundance of reef fish and even a small dolphin.
After about a 30 minute swim I dutifully marched back up to the lonely bartender who was beginning to draw a small crowd of “end of the beach adventurers” and procured two more free Pina Coladas. Just as an aside I think it would be prudent for me to interject that free Pina Coladas should be served with a warning, “The Surgeon General has found that free Pina Coladas can be hazardous to your health”. Being a kind soul and still a little bored our bartender began the custom of topping each of his Pina Coladas with a splash of dark rum. A great idea, but not the best idea for, lets just say “not our first Pia Colada”.
Back to our private beach for sun, Pina Coladas and another splash in warm waters. After about an hour of sun and surf we gathered our towels and began our walk back to the ferry. On the way we noticed that the poor lonely bartender was again alone. The downfall of being at the end of the beach. Understanding that he probably had some kind of quota he was expected to fulfill we decided to come to his rescue.
A mere hand signal that formed a “V” with my first two fingers was sufficient for the ice to begin to grind and our frozen, free, frosty Pina Coladas to be created. No words were needed as our beach bartender placed our libations before us and signaled with the bottle of dark rum, requesting our permission of add a little floater of dark Caribbean rum. “Why Not”.
At that point a few more adventurers joined us and by 3:00 the Pina Coladas with a dark rum floater had drawn a dozen hearty souls to our little bar. By 3:30 it was last call and the lonely bartender was warning that the last ferry to the ship would be leaving soon. “Saved by the last ferry.”
As we walked back to the ferry the beaches, that had been teeming with the masses of humanity only hours before, were deserted. Our fellow cruisers had left the joys of Great Stirrup Cay and were no doubt surrounding the ships pool and buffet and agonizing over the idea that Great Stirrup Cay was only a memory.
With our last free Great Stirrup Cay Pina Coladas nestled in our hot little hands we boarded the ferry and began the 10 minute boat ride back to cruise ship.
If you get the opportunity to experience this beautiful private island be sure to walk the extra 500 yards, find the lonely bartender, swim in the pristine water and drink a Pina Colada with a dark rum floater and think about these two old Geezer’s who wish they were still sunning on the beach of Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas.
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