A private island experience was something only the super-wealthy could ever experience. That was at least until the cruise industry got involved.
Nowadays cruise lines are in competition with each other to create exclusive experiences for their visitors and Royal Caribbean has stepped that up a level with significant investment on a brand new private island development offering a range of different experiences created to appeal to all of its customers.
“Pushing the envelope is in Royal Caribbean’s DNA,” says Chris Perry, who adds that today’s traveller, more now than ever, values memorable experiences – something Perfect Day at CocoCay has been tailor-made for.
Perry – a veteran of the waterpark industry – has spent his entire working life in trade, working all over the world as an operational consultant and serving on the IAAPA Board of Directors. Perry also hosted Travel Channel’s amusement series Epic Attractions, where he provided viewers with an “all-access, backstage pass to the world’s most epic attractions”.
Taking a new step in his career, Perry is Royal Caribbean’s new vice president of private destinations, where he is overseeing hospitality and managerial operations, as well as providing input on the design and best practices for the landmark CocoCay development, touted as a gamechanger for the cruise sector.
A US$250m development, Royal Caribbean has transformed the former Little Stirrup Cay in the Berry Islands of the Bahamas into a vacationer’s paradise.
Royal Caribbean ships departing from New York, Maryland and Florida call at the private island, which features a major waterpark as its anchor attraction. It represents something never seen on such scale for a private island destination, with the waterpark breaking records not only for the Bahamas but the entire continent.
Called Thrill Waterpark, the island’s centrepiece is a tower made up of 13 slides – the most slides found in any waterpark in the Caribbean. It’s tallest slide – Daredevil’s Peak – stands at 135ft (41.1m) and is the tallest in North America, taking riders through 764ft (232m) of translucent tubing.
“The waterpark’s development was a team effort, with Royal Caribbean president and CEO Michael Bayley heavily involved alongside waterpark designers and developers Aquatic Design & Engineering (ADE) and WhiteWater West on the project,” explains Perry.
“It’s at the heart of Perfect Day at CocoCay and dares the most adrenaline-seeking travellers to test their limits out on two slide towers and 13 slides, as well as the Adventure Pool, our kid-friendly obstacle course on water, and the Caribbean’s largest wave pool.”
The main tower features a total of seven different slides, with the twin Dueling Demons, a duo of Manta Raycers, the vertical Screeching Serpent and the coiling Green Mamba all featured. The second smaller family tower also offers six multi-rider slides, including The Twister, a winding tube slide for two sharing a raft; The Slingshot, a zero-gravity slide for four; and the four-lane Splash Speedway racing slides. The waterpark also boasts the region’s largest wave pool and a kid-friendly obstacle course.
Also on the ‘thrill’ side of the island, visitors can find Captain Jill’s Galleon. A splash park aimed at children, the attraction features smaller slides, interactive water cannons, rope features and a splash pad, all with a pirate theme.
More than 50ft (15m) overhead, two 1,600ft (487m) zip lines crisscross the island over Splashaway Bay. This is Royal Caribbean’s largest aquapark and boasts the only splash water landing in the region.
The final offering for thrill-seekers is a giant helium balloon called Up, Up & Away. Once boarded, riders wll ascend 450ft (137m) for a vantage point higher than anywhere else in all of The Bahamas.
Described as “the ultimate escape to relaxation”, ‘Chill Island’ is the other half of the Coco Cay experience, with everything you would expect to be able to do in a tropical paradise on offer to visitors.
“Travellers can have everything from the white-sand beach and water activities, including wave running and snorkelling, to the largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean – Oasis Lagoon,” says Perry. “Visitors can explore three distinct coves within Oasis Lagoon: the family-friendly area, the swim-up bar and three swim-up islands and the relaxation area.”
For the beaches, private cabanas are also available to rent, complete with their own dedicated attendant and daybeds.
Connectivity is a big part of the offering, with WiFi available to visitors extending all the way from the ship to the entire island.
Running through the island are a number of F&B options, including dining at three restaurants and two fast food options.
While offering a memorable and relaxing experience, the capacity at CocoCay is large. Its port has been designed to accommodate any of Royal Caribbean’s vessels, which include the Oasis Class ship – the world’s largest cruise liners.
The average capacity for a single day on the island is 6,500 people, though it can accommodate more than 10,000 when two ships are visiting at the same time – the equivalent of more than 3.6 million visitors each year. It’s not stopping there either, with a second phase of development currently underway on the island.
“The majority of the reimagined island opened in May 2018,” says Perry. “South Beach, which will offer volleyball, beachside basketball, soccer and paddleboarding, and Coco Beach Club – an elevated island experience featuring The Bahamas’ first overwater cabanas and a 2,600sq ft (241sq m) infinity pool – are scheduled to open in December 2019.”
A private island unlike any other for cruise visitors, Royal Caribbean has already declared its intention to replicate its Perfect Day experiences, looking beyond the Bahamas to island destinations previously unexplored by the cruise industry. The operator has a host of locations lined up for the brand, with Perfect Day islands currently under development in Asia, Australia and the Caribbean.
“This was the first of our Perfect Day Island Collection,” says Perry. “We look forward to announcing more in the future.”
According to Perry, the Perfect Day collection will “redefine” the cruise industry, taking its reimagined private island model worldwide.
“We’re making a bold promise with the name Perfect Day,” he says. “This model redefines private island destinations in the holiday industry. Our combination of thrill and chill experiences makes it stand out, with our visitors able to create their ideal day on holiday – no matter what that may look like. Since the island opened in May 2019, our guests have said it’s living up to its name. Perfect Day at CocoCay is already one of the top-rated destinations of our cruises to the Bahamas and Caribbean.”
While the first to produce a new kind of private island destination, Royal Caribbean certainly won’t be the last.
“Introducing a private destination that’s a first of its kind in the cruise industry is the type of ‘disruption’ that moves an industry forward,” he says. “Since we first revealed our plans for Perfect Day early in 2018, details about other cruise lines’ private islands were also announced.
“CocoCay is an experience that’s come to life exactly the way it was imagined. We offer unique, land-based attractions in the midst of a cruise experience. We’re making waves by encouraging innovation and will attract more travellers to the cruise sector as a result.”