|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.
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 bulk of the island’s facilities surround a sheltered
cove. There is plenty of white sand and shade from tall
palm trees. It has the feel of a casual island beach front
rather than a developed structured 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
In the first phase a new channel was dug and a new
landing area for the tenders created along with a
marina. In the second phase, a string of new
infrastructure and landscaping enhancements are being
made. Already completed are: new dining facilities; a
new market; 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 and a
sting ray encounter experience.
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 additonal 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 is sheltered by tall coconut
palm trees. These trees are not native to the Bahamas but
rather stem from 19th century attempts to cultivate and
manufacture palm oil in the islands.
The great bulk of supplies and the manpower for
a day at Great Stirrup Cay is provided by the
ship that is calling at the island. Long before
any passenger goes ashore, the supplies are
marshaled next to the shell doors in the side of
the ship. They are then loaded by hand onto
large tenders (- - some of which used to be
onboard the legendary SS Norway). The crew
members and supplies are then taken to the
developed area of the island.
Cruise ship port photo tour - - Great Stirrup Cay - - Norwegian Cruise Line - - page 1
Once ashore, guests enter the resort area through a gateway.
When returning to the ship, guests exit the resort through a
pavilion, Tweed's Tenders Island Departures. It
provides shelter while waiting to return to the ship.
Once the supplies and crew have been landed, the guests are
allowed to go ashore. They travel ashore using the island's large
As part, of the recent improvements, NCL cut a channel into a
second sheltered cove and created a marina. This improvement
enables passengers to step from the tenders onto a dock rather
than land on the beach John Wayne-style.
Beaches (Bertram's Cove)...............Page Two
Beaches (New Beaches)..................Page Three
Sports Facilities and Activities........Page Four
Bars and Food................................Page Five
Images of the Past...........................Page Six