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Great Stirrup Cay: Everything you need to know about Norwegian’s private island

Great Stirrup Cay aerial

Great Stirrup Cay is one of the ports of call on your Norwegian Cruise Line, but you can't find the island on a map. What is this island, which is a staple on the line's Bahamas and Caribbean cruises?

You’re in for a pleasant surprise because Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian's private island, is the ideal place for an idyllic beach getaway, with plenty to do and little hassle.

Read on to discover everything you need to know about Great Stirrup Cay.

What is Great Stirrup Cay?

Great Stirrup Cay aerial

Great Stirrup Cay (pronounced "key") is Norwegian Cruise Line’s private island in the Bahamas. Much of the island is undeveloped, but Norwegian has carved out a beachy paradise on the northern shore, with plenty of fun-in-the-sun options for cruisers.

The only people allowed on the island are Norwegian passengers and staff. That means you can enjoy a relaxing day with no worries about aggressive vendors or sharing the sand with a bunch of strangers.

Fun fact: The island used to be a pirate hideout; however, we’ve heard no rumors of buried treasure or pirate’s curses.

Where is Great Stirrup Cay located?

Great Stirrup Cay

Great Stirrup Cay is located in the Bahamas’ Berry Islands chain. It’s neighbors with Royal Caribbean’s private island, Perfect Day at Cococay – you can see that island from your ship – and the largest Berry Island, Great Harbour Cay.

Which ships sail to Great Stirrup Cay?

Most of Norwegian’s ships sail to Great Stirrup Cay at some point in their careers, usually as part of Bahamas or Caribbean cruises. Ships sailing to the private island include:

  • Norwegian Bliss
  • Norwegian Breakaway
  • Norwegian Dawn
  • Norwegian Encore
  • Norwegian Escape
  • Norwegian Getaway
  • Norwegian Gem
  • Norwegian Jade
  • Norwegian Jewel
  • Norwegian Joy
  • Norwegian Pearl
  • Norwegian Sky
  • Norwegian Sun

Ships from Norwegian’s sister cruise lines, Oceania and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, make the occasional stop at Great Stirrup Cay, as well. These visits are part of longer Caribbean sailings or even around-the-world cruises. 

Is Great Stirrup Cay a tender port?

Great Stirrup Cay tender

The island has no pier, so you must take a tender boat from the ship to the island. While tenders run back and forth all day, you’ll need to wait in line on either end for boats to arrive and disembark passengers before you can board. Wait times can be long at peak transit times, so plan accordingly (for example, if you’re trying to get back on board for an afternoon spa treatment).

What things can I do at Great Stirrup Cay?

Great Stirrup Cay cabana

The main attraction at Great Stirrup Cay is the beach, with plentiful lounge chairs and protected coves for swimming and snorkeling. The ship’s activities staff will host activities, such as beach volleyball tournaments, water and beach games, dance classes, yoga, and more. The day’s soundtrack is provided by DJs and live bands at the Bacardi Bar or the bandstand.

The island’s rental center can hook you up with snorkel gear to explore the underwater sculpture garden in Bertram’s Cove off the main beach. You can also rent wave runners, standup paddleboards, and floating mats.

If you’re looking for some beachy thrills, sign up for a zip-line adventure. The island has two courses featuring six zips and a ropes course of cargo nets, chimney climbs, and V net bridges. Or take a turn parasailing high above the island’s shores.

Great Stirrup Cay volleyball

For even more beach bliss, book a massage or other spa treatment at the Mandara Spa at Silver Cove. Treatment rooms open onto the lagoon, so the island breezes can waft in while you zone out. Bonus: Your spa appointment gets you access to the Silver Cove beach, restaurant, and bars, typically reserved for villa guests.

You can pick up Bahamian souvenirs at the small straw market, close to the main beach.

Can I book excursions from Great Stirrup Cay?

Kayak

A limited number of excursions are available from Great Stirrup Cay. These include a snorkel excursion on a catamaran boat, a stingray encounter, and a guided kayak tour in two-person kayaks.

Rentals of beach gear and private cabanas are also handled by the shore excursions desk.

Can you swim with pigs at Great Stirrup Cay?

Yes! The pigs are actually located on nearby Treasure Island, a 10-minute boat ride from Great Stirrup Cay. There, visitors can swim with the pigs and feed them, or watch them from the observation deck.

What’s the best beach on the island?

Great Stirrup Cay aerial beach

The best beach on Great Stirrup Cay will depend on your preferences because they're all beautiful. The main beach area is the easternmost section of the island’s developed area and closest to the tender pier. It’s close to the snorkeling areas of Bertram’s Cove, rentals, tour info, food, drinks, and music, so it's the most action-packed. You can rent clam shells or beach umbrellas for shade. Just watch out for rocks and coral on the ocean’s floor when you go into the water.

Wander westward, and you’ll get to Cabana and Fiesta Beaches, which are flanked by rental cabanas and can be a bit quieter. At the far end of the developed area is Silver Cove, a restricted-access area for those who rent the island’s swanky villas. The swimming area is the most protected of all the coves, and the beach is stunning, with overwater swings for photo opps and a gazebo overlooking the sea.

Is there a pool on Great Stirrup Cay?

Great Stirrup Cay waverunner

No, there is currently not a pool on Great Stirrup Cay, just sheltered swimming coves. However, Norwegian is always updating the island and expanding its attractions, so perhaps a pool will make an appearance someday in the future.

Do I need to bring cash?

Great Stirrup Cay is an extension of the ship, so you can pay for drinks, tours, and rentals with your cruise card. The only reason to bring cash is to go shopping at the island’s straw market. 

Is food free on Great Stirrup Cay?

Great Stirrup Cay terrace drink

Yes, all of the food service on the private island is included in your cruise fare, so you can fill your tummy care free.

The largest and most popular dining venue is the Jumbey Beach Grill, an open-air buffet venue serving grilled burgers and chicken and sides like corn on the cob, salad, fruit, and dessert.

For something different, belly up to the Abaco Taco bar for Mexican food made to order. Cabana and villa guests have a food truck option close to them called Tropic Like It’s Hot. The truck serves a limited menu of sandwiches and Caribbean-themed lunch items, plus dessert. It’s open to all, but it’s a bit of a walk from the main beach area.

Finally, if you’ve rented a Silver Cove villa for the day or have a spa treatment booked at the on-island Mandara Spa, you can enjoy a more upscale buffet experience at the Silver Cove Restaurant, located within the restricted-access area of the island. The menu still revolves around salads, grilled fare, and tropical fruits and desserts, but the options are fancier than at Jumbey and the presentation more sophisticated.

Can I eat on GSC if I have dietary restrictions (vegetarian, gluten-free, etc.)?

father and daughter

Vegetarian main dishes are limited on the island, and cross-contamination cannot be guaranteed if you’re concerned about gluten, nuts, or other allergens. 

The ship’s dining venues are open while the ship is anchored off the island, so if you’re highly allergic or concerned about dietary restrictions, you’ll have better luck eating on the ship.

If you’re simply trying to avoid bread or dairy because it’s your preference (rather than a medical condition), you’ll find plenty of meat, fruit, and vegetable dishes that should meet your needs.

How do I buy drinks on the island?

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The island has several bars spread throughout the beach areas. You pay for drinks with your cruise card as you would onboard. In addition, your drinks package includes beverages purchased on the island (subject to the same limits and restrictions as onboard), so you don’t need to shell out extra for a beer or cocktail on the beach.

Bars include:

  • Bacardi Bar in the center of all the main beach action 
  • Bertram’s Bar, known for its refreshing slush drinks
  • Lighthouse Beach Bar by the cabanas
  • Patron Bar by Abaco Taco
  • Moet Bar, serving Champagne-based drinks to Silver Cove guests
  • Silver Cove Bar, which delivers drinks to the villas and diners at the Silver Cove Restaurants

Is there Wi-Fi?

The island currently does not have have Wi-Fi, so it will definitely be a day to disconnect.

Is there a kids’ area on Great Stirrup Cay?

Family on Great Stirrup Cay

Unlike other private islands, Great Stirrup Cay does not have any kid play areas. You won’t find splash pads, playgrounds, kid pools, or water slides. 

The beach is certainly family-friendly, and older kids can enjoy the various activities and shore excursions.

How much is a cabana or villa on Great Stirrup Cay?

Great Stirrup Cay villa

If you’re really looking to relax in comfort on your Great Stirrup Cay beach day, you can rent a private cabana or villa for the day.

A Classic Cabana is priced from $425 (all pricing is itinerary dependent) and accommodates up to six guests, with up to two additional guests charged at $25 each. It’s an open-air shelter with comfortable indoor/outdoor seating and comes with four complimentary floating mats. Classic Cabanas are located on Fiesta Beach, closest to the Silver Cove villas.

A Premier Cabana is priced from $449. It’s simply a larger version of the Classic Cabana, accommodating eight guests, with up to two additional guests charged at $25 each. It also comes with four floating mats and bottled water. The Premier Cabanas are located on Cabana Beach, right next to the Main Beach.

Great Stirrup Cay villa reception view

If you want an exclusive hangout with even more amenities, you’ll want to reserve one of the Silver Cove villas. These grant you access to a private beach, bars, and restaurant, and come with fresh fruit, snacks, chilled drinks, and food and beverage service.

Ocean Villas start at $699 and accommodate six guests, with up to two additional guests charged at $49 each. Unlike the cabanas, villas are fully enclosed, air-conditioned day rooms, with a sliding glass door to let in the breeze and a TV with complimentary on-demand movies. (Though why you’d spend a day on a beautiful beach watching movies is beyond us!)

Villas also come with a full bathroom with shower and a private patio decked out with padded loungers. Two lounge chairs with a beach umbrella will be reserved for you at the beach. The Ocean Villas are adjacent to the cabana area and front Fiesta Beach, not the Silver Cove Lagoon.

Lagoon Villas start at $799 and accommodate eight guests, with up to two additional guests charged at $49 each. They are slightly larger than the Ocean Villas and are located on the lagoon. Amenities are the same.

Lagoon One-Bedroom Villas start at $899 and accommodate 10 guests, with up to two additional guests charged at $49 each. These villas have a separate bedroom with king-size bed in addition to the living area, with a dining table on the patio. 

Lagoon Two-Bedroom Villas start at $1,100 and accommodate 16 guests, with up to four additional guests charged at $49 each. Located by the Silver Cove lagoon, these villas have two bedrooms flanking a central indoor living space. The expansive outdoor patio features several padded lounge chairs, outdoor couch, and a dining table for eight. These villas offers the same amenities as the one-bedroom versions.

What do I need to bring for a day at Great Stirrup Cay?

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You’ll want to bring all your beach day gear, including:

  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Water shoes to protect your feet from rocks and coral
  • Hat
  • Cover-up
  • Book, magazine, music-playing device and headphones, or other entertainment
  • Flotation devices
  • Sand toys, beach balls, and other beach-day sports gear
  • Cruise card and ID

Towels are provided on island, so you do not need to bring your own from the ship. Beach wheelchairs are available on request.