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Great Stirrup Cay

Great Stirrup Cay (GSC) is NCL Cruise Lines 250 acre private island in the Bahamas. If you take a cruise with a Caribbean or Bahamas Itinerary, chances are you will have one day at their private island.

Great Stirrup Cay


If you are a beach person you will love this day, however make sure that you get over on the first tender to get the best spots on the beach!! It is a big beach party all day long!



Many people compare it to other cruise line's islands. It is more natural then the others, and that was NCL's intention in the beginning. However, NCL announced recently that they will be renovating the island with a $20 million face lift to compete with the other cruise line islands (like Princess Cruise Lines Princess Cays). They also needed to expand the island as their new ships like the NCL Epic and the upcoming Norwegian Breakaway are quite larger than the rest of their fleet.


The first phase will have 2 phases including a new entrance channel and docks for tenders and an expanded beach front that will accommodate many more guests. The second phase will include new dining options, an aqua park private beach cabanas, a new kids area and more excursions and activities (including wave runners - YAY!). Expected to be completed by the end of 2011.


We visited it in March of 2012. See what we think here - Our Recent Visit to GSC.


Great Stirrup Cay


We visited Great Stirrup Cay while on the NCL Pearl in March 2012. We were surprised at what a different the island is now. While we were there it wasn't quite finished, but we could definitely see the difference. My one disappointment is that they took a lot of the trees down to build the new beach area, food area and the new channel for the docking.


The best part was the new food options. The dining area had many more choices then just hamburgers and hotdogs. We were really pleased by this.


The NCL Ships that visit the island are: the Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Jewel, Norwegian Sky and the Norwegian Pearl. They made the recent renovations and changes to accommodate the Norwegian Epic (since it is a larger ship and has many more passengers) and The new Norwegian Breakaway that will start sailings in 2013.


It is located about 120 miles east of Fort Lauderdale and is a great beach destination.



Guests are tendered ashore on large double-decker tenders that moor on the beach. These tenders hold at least 400 people. Prepare to wait in lines to get on and off the tenders as the process can be long and slow (and hot if you are in the sun).


The Tenders now go from the ship through a channel to a much more organized and cooler area for passengers. The day we were there the seas were quite rough and we weren't sure if we would have to miss Great Stirrup Cay. But because of the new channel and docking area on the island, they were able to use the two larger tenders to take everyone ashore. It just took a little longer to get over to the island.


Great Stirrup Cay Activities

To enjoy your time the most at GSC, make sure you get on the earliest tender possible. There used to be a limited number of beach chairs and you would have to get to the beach early. However with the changes there are plenty of chairs if you are on a Jewel class ship. We aren't sure if you are on a larger ship if that is still the case, but it looked like it would be fine.


Great Stirrup Cay


Lunch is served by the crew and all the food and drinks are brought over from the ship to the island. With the new changes they have many options for food on the buffet including pizza, salads, sandwiches and chicken.


Activities offered (some require an additional fee):

  • Parasailing
  • Wave running tour
  • Snorkeling
  • Beach Chairs - some with umbrellas
  • Hammocks to sway in the wind in
  • A straw market to shop in
  • Volleyball courts
  • Rent a variety of water toys
  • The Giant Hippo Water slide (wasn't up while we were there the second time but they NCL site says it is available)
  • Listen to the music of the DJ and the Reggae Band
  • Rent Clam shells for shade
  • Eventually there will also be cabanas to own

Great Stirrup Cay
Volleyball on the Beach


Great Stirrup Cay
Clamshells for rent on the beach


Great Stirrup Cay
Main Beach with the Hippos Slide - beach is larger now


Great Stirrup Cay
Hippo Slide


 Pros and Cons for GSC Bahamas and to see our experience of Great Stirrup Cay both before and in March 2012 after many of the renovations have been done.

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