Watersports, Sun, Sand and Fun abound.
Norwegian Cruise Line announced today at Cruise Shipping Miami that it will make major enhancements to its private island, Great Stirrup Cay, located 120 miles east of Ft. Lauderdale in the Berry Island chain of the Bahamas. The 250-acre island will undergo a two-phase renovation, totaling in excess of $20 million, spanning 22 months and scheduled to be completed by the end of 2011.
"We have one of the best private islands, particularly for swimming and snorkeling. With these improvements, we can provide an even more enjoyable island experience for the more than 9,000 guests who visit Great Stirrup Cay weekly during the height of the season," said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line's chief executive officer. "Highlights of the enhancements include an expanded beach front, exciting island excursions, additional dining facilities, private beachside cabanas and a new kid's area."
The first phase of improvements to Great Stirrup Cay is already underway. This includes the excavation and formation of a new entrance channel for tenders, marina basin and arrival area with welcome pavilion that will be the site for new tender landings and docks. Once this is complete, the island's current beach front will be expanded significantly to accommodate more guests.
New infrastructure and landscaping to enhance the guest experience is planned in the second phase including new dining and bar facilities; several comfort stations; a band stand; cruise program activity area; private beachfront cabanas; a kid's play area; straw market; and beach volleyball courts. Several new island activities and shore excursions will be added including wave runners, a floating Aqua Park with a variety of water toys, kayak tours through man-made rivers within the island, an eco-cruise, and a stingray encounter experience. These are in addition to the existing snorkeling; floats; inflatable hippo slide; and parasailing that are currently offered.
Norwegian has owned the island since 1977 when it became the first cruise line to offer an uninhabited tropical island experience exclusively for its guests. Great Stirrup Cay offers magnificent white sand beaches, majestic palms and calm, pristine waters where an abundance of colorful marine life inhabits the surrounding coral reefs.
Norwegian Gem and Norwegian Breakaway regularly call on Great Stirrup Cay throughout the year.
GREAT STIRRUP CAY
This 2.5 mile by 1.5 mile, uninhabited Bahamian island is the scene for NCL’s relaxing beach party. In the Berry Island chain, some 120miles due east of Fort Lauderdale is located this little piece of paradise. Go for a leisurely walk, swim as little colorful fish go by, sun bathe, part take in water sports or rest in a hammock. For an added charge, Kayaking, snorkeling, paddle boats with underwater view panels, floats, sunfish sailboats are available. Play volley ball, ping pong or explore the walking paths. There is abundant aquatic life found at the island as well as various birds and reptiles on shore.
Since there are no docking facilities for the ship, passengers are tendered into the port. In addition food and drink service is brought to the island so there is no need to return to the ship until just prior to sailing. This is your day to relax and enjoy the sea, sun and surf. The food service consists of your traditional barbecue (and pizza) with all of the trimmings, salads and fresh fruit. To quench your thirst, there are 2 bars on the island. The beach is outfitted with a full complement of beach chairs and umbrellas for your sunning pleasure. There is a calypso band which will play tropical music for your enjoyment and dancing pleasure.
On one small section of the island is a souvenir and T-shirt stand and restrooms. During peak seasons, when the ship is filled to capacity, the beach can be a little crowded, but there is still room for everyone.
Note: Sometimes due to rough seas, the call at the private islands may be cancelled. It is up to the discretion of the captain to assure the safety of the passengers. If he feels that people may get injured when tendering to/from the ship, the private island call may be replaced with a leisurely day at sea.
NCL was the pioneer of the “Private Island” concept.
LOCATION AND HISTORY
Norwegian Cruise Line's Great Stirrup Cay is the northern most island in a chain of islands known as the Berry Islands in the Bahamas. It is situated in an area along the Northwest Providence Channel. As sailing vessels gave way to steamships, shipping traffic increased through this channel. As a result, in 1863, the Imperial Lighthouse Service erected the lighthouse on Great Stirrup Cay. Although it was manned for many years, it is currently timed and solar-powered.
The first known settlers on the island were Lucayan Indians, relatives of the Arawaks who populated the Caribbean around 600 A.D. The Spanish arrived in 1492 followed by the British in early the 1600's. The well-protected cove at Great Stirrup was also frequently visited by pirates and offered them safe anchorage in between plunders of the gold-laden Spanish vessels returning from South America. The island was used during the Civil War as a landfall for provisioning by Federal troops. During World War II, American troops utilized the island for defensive purposes to guard the eastern shores of the U.S. and the US Air Force later erected a satellite tracking station. One of the best-known settlers of more recent times was Captain Bertram of the British Navy, after whom Bertram's Cove is named.
NCL purchased Great Stirrup Cay from Belcher Oil Company in 1977 and became the first cruise line to have a private "out island." Improvements to the island and existing structures were made in preparation for NCL's passenger's first "island experience."
Since 1988, NCL made numerous major improvements to the island, which included construction of four new buildings; the main bar and deck, a water sports hut on the west beach, another bar at the main beach and the Dive-in Center. Additions were made to the Straw Market, the beach area was extended and a sea wall erected to reduce beach erosion.
GREAT STIRRUP CAY FACTS
Owner: Norwegian Cruise Line
Location: 120 Nautical Miles east of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida in the Berry Island chain of the Bahamas.
Size: 2.5 x 1.5 miles
Base: Coral & Limestone
Beaches: 2 main (North Shore); 1 un-maintained (West shore). 3 un-maintained (South shore)
Average Temp: 75 degrees Fahrenheit
Vegetation: Coconut Palm; Sea Grape, and the beautiful Bougainvillea are among the abundant regional foliage.
Animals: Variety of lizards, land crabs, iguanas, seagulls, frigates, sanderlings, great snowy egrets, and Arctic terns can often be spotted on the island
Marine Life: An abundance of marine animal and plant life surrounds the island. In addition to the numerous coral formations, sponges, sea urchins and sea stars, many colorful varieties of parrotfish, wrasses, angelfish, grouper, snapper, jack, grunt, triggerfish, butterfly fish, and sergeant majors live at Great Stirrup Cay.
GREAT STIRRUP CAY FACILITIES
Bars: One main bar and one smaller bar are located at the east end of the beach.
Food Service: An island barbeque of chicken, hamburgers and hot dogs with pizzas, salads, fresh fruits and all the trimmings is cooked and served buffet-style on the island.
Restrooms: Full facilities located on site.
Beach Chairs: 1,000 beach chairs & 800 umbrellas
Straw Market: T-shirts and souvenirs from the Bahamas are available at stands located in one small section of the island.
GREAT STIRRUP CAY WATER SPORTS
The following is available through NCL's Dive-In Program:
Snorkeling: Snorkeling instruction and equipment is available for 300 passengers.
Paddle Boats: Catamaran style with efficient paddle and view windows, which allows the passengers to see underwater.
Stingray Vu-boards: Resemble a "boogie board" but have a view port at the head area to see underwater.
Floats: Two types of floats are available. These include soft foam "Sun Float" mats and inflatable "Fun Island" party rafts.
Sailboats: "Kis Kat" two person, fiberglass catamaran style sailboats with bucket seats, a single sheet line and joystick steering.
Kayaks: Two person kayaks are "Zuma II" models made of molded polyethylene plastic.
Parasailing: Sail aboard the pristine waters of the Bahamas either solo or in tandem while being towed behind a brand new parasail boat off the beach of Great Stirrup Cay.
There are three deep sand volleyball courts, and two ping-pong tables. There is also a walking path on the island for jogging or casual sightseeing. NCL "Olympic" competitions are frequently held on the island as well as a limbo contest for prizes.
Source: Norwegian Cruise Lines Press Release.
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