The morning before I landed in CocoCay, I wasn’t exactly feeling great about how it would go. Sure, being onboard the ship was a great time, but what was supposed to be a tropical getaway to the Bahamas all of a sudden had a hurricane looming over it. There had already been rain at various points throughout the cruise, and the fear of that happening during what was supposed to be the most picturesque day of the whole trip was nerve-wracking. And yet as I came off the gangway, I was greeted with clear skies and a bright sun.
It was time for my perfect day to begin.
“Perfect Day at CocoCay” is the name Royal Caribbean has given to stops made at CocoCay ever since massive renovations were made in 2019. The island, which RC leases from the Bahamian government, can be visited either through brief “Perfect Day Getaway” cruises departing from Florida that last two to four nights, or longer “Perfect Day and Bahamas” cruises that last around a week and leave from a variety of locations such as Florida, Texas, and New York.
The first thing I did on the island was take a tram (blasting a version of Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day” changed to “Perfect Day” that got old quickly) over to the “Thrill Waterpark.” Entry into the waterpark comes with an additional $100 purchase of a ticket, with the biggest draw being that it contains the tallest waterslide in North America, Daredevil’s Peak. The slide is of course at the top of a tower containing several other waterslides increasing in intensity the higher up you go. I personally found the “Dueling Demons” waterslide directly below Daredevil’s Peak to be the most intense, but both certainly were adrenaline-inducing experiences.
The waterpark also includes a separate tower for more family-orientated waterslides, as well as a children’s section and a large wave pool. Going to the wave pool in between some of the slides was a welcome respite, though at a certain point the irony of being in a wave pool while on an actual island in the Bahamas becomes a little too much to bear. The Thrill waterpark may be worth the extra price of admission if you’re as big of a waterslide fan as I am, otherwise it might be worth it to save the money and enjoy the rest the island has to offer.
And what is that, exactly? Well, beaches mostly—a variety of ‘em. Although they have different names such as “South Beach” and “Chill Island,” the experience across all of them (unless willing to pay extra for experiences such as snorkeling) is mostly the same. That is to say, you’ll be swimming and relaxing on a tropical beach, which is of course a great time. And if you want a drink, South Beach’s floating bar is a marvel, as the experience of having a Malibu Bay Breeze while floating in the middle of the ocean and then diving into the water is hard to beat.
The main attraction of CocoCay is Oasis Lagoon, the largest pool in the Caribbean. When checking the website beforehand, I noted they made careful note of how relaxing the pool was, giving you plenty of room to “cool down” and find “perfect relaxation.” When I walked up to the pool myself I noted the exact opposite, as the DJ blasting music directly across from a swim-up bar created far more of a “drunken pool party” vibe. For a 22 year old recent college graduate this certainly wasn’t a problem, but for someone looking for that more relaxing atmosphere it might be best to stick to one of the beaches. Going to the other end of the pool does offer a more low-key experience, complete with beach chairs, but even still I’d imagine even faintly hearing a mashup of Walk the Earth’s “Shut Up and Dance” and Rhianna’s “We Found Love” might be too much for some.
CocoCay offers several other activities including a zipline across the island, a hot air balloon, and a boat ride surrounded by swimming pigs. Like the waterpark however, these all cost an extra fee, either beforehand online or once you get on the island. Most of the advertising around CocoCay doesn’t make this fact particularly clear, choosing instead to present the activities of the island in a way that suggests it’s all included with the cost of your cruise ticket. This fact, coupled with occasional views I got of the shoddy looking employee housing and maintenance areas, does shatter the illusion of the whole experience somewhat. While it may already be obvious that the whole experience exists as a way to grab even more money from tourists, how blatant it is in certain regards is a little shocking.
While I can’t exactly call my experience at CocoCay “perfect,” the time spent in the waterpark combined with the beaches and Oasis Lagoon pool made for the exact sunny island day I was looking for. And yet I couldn’t stop myself from wondering whether I would’ve had an even better one if I had traveled directly to the Bahamas. One that would’ve included more culture and less questionable worker conditions. If you are thinking of going on a Caribbean cruise and willing to spend some extra money, however, there are certainly worse options than making a stop at CocoCay.
Jay Norton has written for publications such as Into the Spine and Halftone Magazine about videogames, movies, and anything else out there. You can find them on Twitter talking about those same things with far less dignity @Sl0thi0.