Enhancements, renovations bring fresh new look to Princess Cays

Private islands and ports are little slices of paradise carved out for cruise ship passengers.

From Disney’s Castaway Cay to Norwegian’s Harvest Caye, cruisers can find sandy beaches, balmy breezes and lots of interesting and fun activities.

Princess Cruises recently completed refurbishments and enhancements to Princess Cays, its exclusive island destination on the southern tip of Eleuthra in the outer Bahamas.

Getting to the island hideaway will be easier, with an expanded marina that includes a new channel and turning basin depth to accommodate larger tenders and a smoother disembarkation/embarkation process. If you’ve endured a long wait in a tender line, then you know this a good thing!

Excursions include the new Lagoon Clear-Bottom Kayaking Adventure, a guided paddle to explore the flora and fauna of the island’s lagoon habitat. The Island Bicycle Adventure offers a leisurely ride to some of the area’s popular sites. A new Stingray Beach Encounter allows guests to feed, touch and hold stingrays.

Refurbished bar and retail areas, along with extensive new landscaping, paint and updating of beach bungalows, give the island paradise — which opened in 1992 — a fresh new look.

And for those who don’t want to kick back and disconnect completely, Princess is offering MedallionNet WiFi on the island. Now you can let the folks back at home know what they’re missing!

A NOVEL APPROACH: A cruise is the perfect place to catch up on your reading, whether you’re sitting poolside or on your own private balcony.

Holland America Line is introducing something for avid readers, launching O’s Reading Room fleet-wide, in partnership with O, The Oprah Magazine.

By May, guests on all ships will have the opportunity to read the latest selection of the Oprah Book Club and participate in discussions on board.

The first novel in the new program is “An American Marriage” by Tayari Jones. Selections will change periodically throughout the year and will be posted on the cruise line’s website, www.hollandamerica.com.

NEW SHIP NEWS: Norwegian Bliss is one step closer to her big debut this spring.

The ship recently was floated out from the Meyer Werft building dock in Papenburg, Germany. She will remain in the shipyard port for the final stages of construction.

The first crew members are moving into their staterooms to begin their training and familiarize themselves with the ship before guests arrive next month.

Norwegian Bliss sails from Southampton, England on April 21, arriving in New York on May 3. It will then make its way to Miami, and after a 15-day cruise from Miami to Los Angeles, the ship will move to her home port of Seattle for the summer season. She returns to Miami in November, offering seven-night cruises to the Caribbean.

Also getting some finishing touches before setting sail in April is Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas. The ship underwent a battery of tests during four days of sea trials last month.

Symphony of the Seas will spend her inaugural summer season in the Mediterranean before heading to her new year-round home port in Miami. Beginning Nov. 24, the ship will offer seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean voyages. The 25th ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet, she will claim the title of the largest ship in the word.

Celebrity Edge is expected to be completed ahead of schedule and now will be offering two seven-night maiden voyages from her new home port of Fort Lauderdale in December.

Maiden Voyage West, departing Dec. 9, will visit Key West; Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico; and George Town, Grand Cayman. Maiden Voyage East, sailing Dec. 16, will call on San Juan, Puerto Rico; Tortola, British Virgin Islands; and Phillipsburg, St. Maarten.

Celebrity has also scheduled four new preview sailings. The three-night Bahamas cruises depart from Port Everglades on Nov. 21 and 24, and Dec. 3 and 6.

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