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Carnival is building a $600 million private destination to compete with Royal Caribbean's Perfect Day at CocoCay — here's what to expect


Since reopening in 2019 following an extensive multi-million dollar renovation, Royal Caribbean's Perfect Day at CocoCay has been the ultimate private destination for cruisers. From the thrilling waterpark to the upscale beach club and massive freshwater pool, it has become a family favorite. 

Not only is Royal Caribbean deploying their brand-new Utopia of the Seas on 3- and 4-night sailings to CocoCay, but the island also won the 2023 Cruise Hive Awards Best Cruise Line Private Island Award for the third year in a row, beating MSC Cruises' Ocean Cay, Norwegian's Great Stirrup Cay, and Disney's Castaway Cay. Carnival Cruise Line, however, is upping the competition with their brand-new Celebration Key in The Bahamas. 

This will be Carnival's second private destination in The Bahamas. Currently, guests can visit Half Moon Cay, Carnival Corporation's private island about 100 miles southeast of Nassau. Celebration Key, however, will be a stark departure from the lowkey beach found at Half Moon Cay. 

Read more: Royal Caribbean’s CocoCay vs Carnival's Half Moon Cay: Which should you choose?


Opening in 2025, Celebration Key will span 65 acres and offer amenities to appease many travelers, from family-friendly beaches to energetic adult-only pools with a private DJ. The project has cost Carnival Corporation a whopping $600 million, making it their most expensive project to date. 

They anticipate it being a hit, too, as Carnival has already released over 500 itineraries on 18 cruise ships from nine ports through April 2026 that have a scheduled stop at Celebration Key.

Like Perfect Day at CocoCay, Celebration Key will feature a pier, allowing passengers to walk ashore versus relying on a tender boat


As soon as guests make their way off the colorful pier, they'll enter Paradise Plaza and be greeted by a "much-larger-than-life sandcastle," measuring roughly 10 stories. Plus, there will be plenty of wayfinding and destination information to help passengers plan their day ashore, as well as a Bahamian-themed fountain and ice cream shop for refreshing sweet treats! 

"When guests see our Suncastle as they arrive at Celebration Key, they'll know immediately they're in for big FUN," said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line, "Paradise Plaza will be the perfect welcome spot and will set the tone for the entire visit to this truly unique destination."

Though not a dedicated "arrivals plaza," one of the first sights guests see as they step foot on Perfect Day at CocoCay is the thrilling Daredevil's Tower, which is home to Daredevil's Peak, the tallest waterslide in North America. There's also a small, complimentary splash zone for children, live musicians, and Bahamian dancers. 


Looking for the perfect souvenir? Head over to Lokono Cove, the shopping area named after Grand Bahama Island's earliest settlers, the Lucayans, where you'll find local artist exhibitions, a mural wall, live music, artisanal goods made by local vendors, and more. 

According to historians, Lucayans were a gentle and creative community of artisans who were particularly skilled at pottery, painting, and basket weaving. Plus, there is where guests departing to explore other areas of Grand Bahama Island will leave from, whether on a Carnival shore excursion or independent exploration. 

Similarly, Perfect Day at CocoCay has an island market located within the Chill Island area where you can purchase t-shirts, magnets, sunscreen, and other souvenirs. Based on Carnival's description of Lokono Cove, however, the shopping district on Celebration Key seems as though it will be more authentic. 

Read more: 15 things I wish I knew before setting foot on a Carnival ship

Celebration Key will feature two adult-only areas


Calypso Lagoon will be the complimentary adults-only area. True to Carnival's brand, adults here will enjoy the high-energy vibe complete with a DJ and swim-up bar. 

Of course, there are opportunities to kick back and relax, too, whether you want to splurge on a cabana rental or lounge on the secluded beach. When hunger strikes, adults can dine at a full-service restaurant featuring a variety of cuisines. Overall, Calypso Lagoon can be compared to Royal Caribbean's Hideaway Beach, though the latter is an extra-fee area. 

If you're seeking an environment akin to Coco Beach Club, you'll want to visit the Adults-Only Private Club Portal, both of which have an admission fee. With that, though, Carnival will grant you access to a private infinity pool, beach, and elevated dining options. 

Families can enjoy the largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean


Located within Starfish Lagoon, Celebration Key's family-friendly zone, the Caribbean's largest freshwater pool is sure to be a hit. That's not all, either, as guests will find waterslides, a sports and gaming area, floating cabanas (called AquaBanas), and, of course, a gorgeous beach where you can rent kayak and paddleboards or relax on one of the sun loungers. 

Similar to how passengers' eyes are drawn to Daredevil's Tower, which features five different waterslides, Carnival's Suncastle will be home to two slides, each measuring over 350 feet long. Guests can weave through the 10-story high castle on the Flash Flamingo or Mach III Marlin, named after the national bird and fish of The Bahamas. Unlike at CocoCay, however, these slides will be free, whereas passengers have to pay for admission to Thrill Waterpark to ride any of the slides at Daredevil's Tower. 

Younger children will enjoy splashing around in the coral-reef theme splash pad called Guppy Grotto which features a 2-foot-deep wading pool, lots of water toys, and a dump bucket. 


Guests sailing aboard one of Royal Caribbean ships to CocoCay can venture to South Beach and find lifesize games like billiards and Jenga. There's also a ping-pong table and corn hole, all located near one of the Snack Shacks and beautiful Bahamian waters. 

Carnival guests visiting Celebration Key can enjoy similar offerings at the Game Pavilion and Sports Court, both in the Starfish Lagoon area. The latter features volleyball, basketball, and pickleball courts, while the Game Pavillion will be home to numerous table games, including foosball, ping-pong, and corn hole. 

Finally, families looking for the ultimate experience ashore should consider renting one of the 12 floating AquaBanas that can host up to eight guests. Royal Caribbean also has floating cabanas at CocoCay. They're, however, found within the Coco Beach Club. Costs can soar as high as $5,000 for a single day. The price of Carnival's AquaBanas is unknown. 


“At Carnival, we carry more children than any other cruise line, so we’ve designed Starfish Lagoon specifically for family fun,” said Duffy, “Toddlers, teens, and adults alike will find their own piece of paradise whether it be racing down one of the waterslides, playing a round of pickleball or relaxing on our floating AquaBanas.”

The destination won't be fully complete when it opens


When fully completed, Celebration Key will have two piers able to accommodate four Excel Class ships, bringing the daily capacity of the private destination to over 20,000. The second pier will cost the company $100 million and is scheduled to be completed in 2026. 

Comparatively, CocoCay has a single pier and can host up to 13,000 guests per day, including the world's largest cruise ship, Icon of the Seas. By 2028, Carnival says Celebration Key will be able to accommodate 4 million passengers annually. Moreover, they have plans to add a waterpark, increasing the number of adventures for guests of all ages. 

The proximity to Florida will aid Carnival's goal of reducing fuel costs, as it is only 120 miles from the coast of Florida. "A cruise is like driving your car. If you go slower and you go shorter distances, generally speaking, you use less fuel and you emit less greenhouse gases," said Josh Weinstein, Carnival Corporation's President, CEO, and Chief Climate Officer, during a panel at Seatrade Cruise Global 2024. 

Read more: 18 Carnival Cruises Tips & Tricks

Half Moon Cay's offerings are far more limited 

Half Moon Cay

Though Half Moon Cay promises visitors soft white sand beaches with crystal-clear waters, there are far fewer activities for guests to enjoy ashore. You will not, for example, find any waterslides or a freshwater pool. Similarly, there aren't any adult-only areas or upscale dining options. 

Instead, activities focus on the island's natural beauty, whether you want to go horseback riding along the shoreline, swim with stingrays, rent a kayak, or play a game of basketball on the court surrounded by the lush landscape. 

Of course, there are opportunities for those who want to splurge on luxury experiences, from the two-story beach villas to the 1,620-square-foot grand cabana with a private eight-person hot tub. 

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