Both Royal Caribbean and Carnival have their own private islands within The Bahamas — Perfect Day at CocoCay and Half Moon Cay — that can only be visited when sailing on one of their respective ships.
The islands aren't identical to one another, so you must research both before settling on a cruise line. Those seeking more thrilling excursions might prefer CocoCay, whereas those seeking a relaxing beach day with fewer extra cost activities may find Half Moon Cay suitable.
Below is a guide to Perfect Day at CocoCay compared to Half Moon Cay. Regardless of where you're sailing to, you are sure to enjoy the benefits of visiting a cruise line private island.
Royal Caribbean's Perfect Day at CocoCay
In 2019, Royal Caribbean spent a whopping $250 million renovating the island. Prior to its completion, it was simply known as "CocoCay;" however, the extensive renovations required a new name, hence "Perfect Day" was added.
Perfect Day at CocoCay is a destination found on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity itineraries, as both lines are operated by Royal Caribbean Group. Additionally, it's a popular port on both short cruises to The Bahamas, as well as longer Caribbean itineraries.
It's roughly 140 miles east of Miami and is located directly next to Norwegian Cruise Line's Great Stirrup Cay!
(The author at Perfect Day at CocoCay)
On the island, you will find complimentary beach chairs and umbrellas, as well as a delicious lunch buffet. There's also the largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean: Oasis Lagoon.
While there's no denying that you can simply enjoy a relaxing day on the beach at no extra charge, what sets CocoCay apart are the paid activities, including Thrill Waterpark, Hideaway Beach, Coco Beach Club, and more.
Whether you want to ride the tallest water slide in North America, splurge on an upscale beach experience, enjoy an afternoon away from children at the adults-only area, etc., the island has the perfect excursion for everyone.
Read more: Pros and Cons of a Royal Caribbean Cruise
Carnival's Half Moon Cay
Half Moon Cay is Carnival's private island located about 100 miles southeast of Nassau. It was purchased by Holland America Line in 1996 for $6 million. Because Holland America Line is owned by Carnival Corporation, it's a popular port on Carnival itineraries, too.
Since it was purchased in the late 90s, roughly 50 acres of the 2,400-acre island have been developed.
The waters around the island are shallow, meaning that cruise ships are unable to dock. Passengers must use tender boats to go ashore.
(The author at Half Moon Cay)
While you won't find as many activities as CocoCay, there's still quite a list of excursions that you can pay for, including horseback riding, snorkeling with stingrays, kayaking, etc.
Those who want to save money can take advantage of the complimentary beach chairs and buffet lunch.
Read more: Pros and Cons of a Carnival Cruise
You will find more activities at CocoCay
Perfect Day at CocoCay is a hub for those who crave adrenaline rushes. The first time I visited the island, I splurged on a ticket to Thrill Waterpark and had so much fun riding Daredevil's Peak, the tallest water slide in North America. The wave pool was a lot of fun, too!
Of course, not all the excursions are thrill-based. I've also enjoyed a relaxing day in an overwater cabana and a delicious upscale lunch at Coco Beach Club, as well as partied at Oasis Lagoon using my drink package at the swim-up bar.
I'm looking forward to exploring the adults-only Hideaway Beach in April when I cruise onboard Celebrity Reflection!
On the flip side, there's not as much to explore at Half Moon Cay. It's more of a typical beach, whereas CocoCay has more of a resort vibe.
Half Moon Cay doesn't have any complimentary umbrellas
I was shocked to learn that Half Moon Cay doesn't provide complimentary umbrellas to guests; they're available for $35.
While minor, it felt as though the cruise line was trying to nickel and dime passengers. I understand charging extra for clamshell beds and multi-level cabanas; however, it felt unnecessary to charge for something as simple as an umbrella, especially in The Bahamas!
I am someone who tends to burn rather easily, so I had to be more rigorous about reapplying sunscreen. At some points, sitting in the direct heat just became too much, and my friend and I had to take a walk to find some shade.
The majority of Half Moon Cay is uninhabited, whereas you can explore most of CocoCay
As mentioned earlier, Carnival has only developed about 50 acres of the 2,400-acre island.
According to Royal Caribbean's website, "Perfect Day at CocoCay features more than 120 acres of pure thrill and ways to chill." This means that even though Half Moon Cay is larger, there's more acreage accessible to guests at CocoCay.
Royal Caribbean allows you to use drink packages while ashore at CocoCay
There's no denying that cruise drink packages are expensive. They can easily double your cruise fare depending on the deal that you received when booking.
They aren't always worth it, either. If you are someone who enjoys 2-3 drinks per day, you are better off paying for each individually. However, those who like to drink a tad more than usual on vacation will benefit from booking a package.
One pro about Royal Caribbean drink packages is that you can use them ashore at Perfect Day at CocoCay. Whether you want a beverage from the floating bar or while lounging on the beach, you will not have to worry about racking up a large bill.
(I paid $20 for a Miami Vice while ashore at Half Moon Cay!)
Carnival, however, doesn't allow people to use their CHEERS! packages at Half Moon Cay. Even if you have the package, you will have to pay extra for any drinks you have on the island.
There's no pier at Half Moon Cay
Those wanting to go ashore at Half Moon Cay will have to board a water taxi to be transported from the ship to shore, as the waters surrounding the island are too shallow for a ship to dock.
This can be rather annoying, as you'll have to wake up and collect a tender group. Plus, there's a lot of waiting that's involved in the tender experience. Most likely, the taxi won't depart as soon as you board, as you will have to wait for it to fill up a bit.
Additionally, you'll have to wait in line at Half Moon Cay to go through security before being allowed on a return tender.
Part of Royal Caribbean's $250 million renovation of CocoCay was spent adding a pier, so guests can walk on and off the island at their will.
Both islands have tram service
Guests with mobility issues won't have to worry about navigating the islands, as both Half Moon Cay and Perfect Day at CocoCay have trams to help transport passengers from one location to another.
At Half Moon Cay, you will find trams from the Pirates Cove welcome center to the buffet, whereas the trams on CocoCay make more stops at the major attractions.
You may also buy souvenirs ashore at either Half Moon Cay or CocoCay
Hoping to bring a trinket or t-shirt home for a loved one? No worries! Both islands have vendors selling all kinds of gifts, ranging from magnets to island-branded merchandise.
Additionally, you can use your Sail & Sign / SeaPass card, so you don't have to bring cash— Unless, that is, you plan on purchasing something at the straw market at Half Moon Cay, as only the gift stores have the ability to charge your onboard account.
If you happen to forget (or run out of) sunscreen, you can purchase some ashore, too. However, note that it'll be more expensive than on land. When I was visiting Half Moon Cay, I was shocked to see that a single bottle of spray sunscreen was $27!
Guests can enjoy a complimentary buffet on both private islands
(Snack Shack at Perfect Day at CocoCay)
One of my favorite parts about the private island experience is the complimentary buffet. Thankfully, both Carnival and Royal Caribbean's islands offer them. It's a nice break from the food served onboard, and there's nothing quite like eating a freshly grilled burger or crafting your own tacos on the beach!
You can, however, pay for upgraded food, too. On Half Moon Cay, you can purchase fresh seafood at the Lobster Shack, whereas CocoCay has Captain Jack's, which serves chicken wings and steak fries for around $8 and $3, respectively. There are also dining options located within Coco Beach Club and Hideaway Beach.
(Food from the buffet at Half Moon Cay)
The price for seafood at Lobster Shack varies, as it's based on the current market price. When I visited the island in January 2024, oysters were $2.50/each, snow crab was $26/lb, peel & eat shrimp was $14/lb, lobster was $22/lb, and tiger shrimp were $3/each.
CocoCay also has a few snack shacks located on the island where you can get complimentary mozzarella sticks, funnel cakes, crispy chicken sandwiches, and more.