|Its all about ships
PHOTO TOUR AND
Great Stirrup Cay is an island owned by Norwegian
Cruise Line (NCL), which it has developed as a port of
call for Norwegian ships on Bahamian and Caribbean
cruises. Ships anchor off shore and guests are taken to
the island by tender to enjoy the beaches, facilities and
water sports available on the island. A barbecue lunch
is provided and bar service is available. It is a very
popular stop with the vast majority of the passengers
going ashore for some part of the day.
The island is located in the Berry Island chain of the
Bahamas and is about 120 miles east of Fort Lauderdale
and 50 miles northwest of Nassau. It is next to Royal
Caribbean’s private island Coco Cay (see photo tour).
Altogether Great Stirrup Cay is 250 acres, although
most of it is undeveloped. Besides the Norwegian
facilities, there is an unmanned automated lighthouse on
the island. Great Stirrup Cay is uninhabited except for
people working for Norwegian.
GSC, as it is known, has undergone a remarkable
transformation in the last few years. Indeed,
Norwegian's CEO Kevin Sheehan has pointed out just
how extensive this transformation has been.
"We were the first one in the industry to buy an island.
We never spent a penny on it - - it was Gilligan's Island
without Gilligan. It was the funny - - the tender boats
would ride into the beach and the door would come
down and the guests would come running off like in
World War II on the beaches of Normandy."
"We have spent about $30 million improving that
island. It is a beautiful experience now. The beaches
are now about five times the size that they were. And
we've invested in all the accommodations on the
beaches, the food opportunities, the jet skis and all the
other experiences that we have. MSC, one of our
competitors, is paying us millions of dollars a year to
use the island on some of the days when we don't use
it. It is just another affirmation of getting it right."
Consistent with Norwegian's Freestyle cruising
philosophy, guests are free to structure their own day on
the island. The line does offer some organized shore
excursions, however. (See shore excursions from one
Guests can make use of the beaches, the deck chairs,
hammocks, volleyball court, ping pong tables, and the
nature trail for free. There also is no charge for the
barbecue lunch. There is a charge for bar service,
snorkeling equipment, party rafts and mats, beach
massages, the Hippo Slide, clam shell shelters and the
Eco Tour boat.
All charges except for purchases made at the island’s
Bahamian market, are placed on the guest’s onboard
account. Purchases at the Straw Market are made in
cash using U.S. dollars.
The majority of the island’s facilities surround a
sheltered cove. There is plenty of white sand and shade
from tall palm trees. With the recent improvements, the
the feel has changed from a casual island beach front to
a more polished resort.
Great Stirrup Cay has a lengthy history. There is
evidence that it was inhabited by the Lucayan Indians
around 600 AD who attempted to farm its rocky soil.
Spanish explorers arrived in the late 15th century
followed by the British in the 1600s. Because of its
sheltered cove, the island was also used as a base by
pirates. They were displaced in the 19th century by
slave traders and there are still structures from this
period hidden in the jungle.
During the American Civil War, the island was used by
Federal forces seeking to intercept Confederate
blockade runners. Similarly, in World War II, the
island was used as an American base combating
German submarines that were active in the Caribbean.
Following World War II, Great Stirrup was used by the
United States Air Force as a satellite tracking station.
Some remains of those facilities can still be seen on the
In 1977, Norwegian purchased the island from the
Belcher Oil Company and became the first cruise line to
offer its own private island experience. The line made
extensive improvements to the island in 1988.
Norwegian announced in March 2010, that it planned to
make in excess of $20 million in improvements to Great
Stirrup Cay. As noted earlier, Norwegian has already
spent more than that amount in its transformation of the
In the first phase, a new channel was dug and a harbor
for the tenders was created along with a marina.
Subsequently, a string of new infrastructure and
landscaping enhancements were made. These included:
new beach areas; new dining facilities; a new shopping
area; private beach front cabanas and a larger sports
area. Under constructions are: a new children’s area; a
cruise program activity area; and other enhancements.
The line has implemented wave runner and kayak tours
and has plans for an aqua park.
The island was hard hit by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
However, much of the damage has been repaired and
further progress with the development of the island has
been made. This includes landscaping in the main area
with additional palm trees and grassy areas.
The shoreline around Great Stirrup Cay is a mixture of sandy
beaches and rocky coast.
The part of the island which has been developed and which
is currently in use by passengers has a number of tall
coconut palm trees. These trees are not native to the
Bahamas. While some have been planted as part of the
landscaping program others stem from 19th century attempts
to cultivate and manufacture palm oil in the islands.
Cruise destination photo tour - - Great Stirrup Cay - - Norwegian Cruise Line - - page 1
Going Ashore.................................Page Two
Beaches (Bertram's Cove)...............Page Three
Beaches (New Beaches)..................Page Four
Sports Facilities and Activities........Page Five
Bars and Food................................Page Six
Images of the Past...........................Page Seven