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Ultimate Guide to Princess Cays

Ultimate Guide to Princess Cays

Princess Cays is a private island destination in the Bahamas for both Princess Cruises and Carnival Cruise Line. With sandy expanses stretching toward crystal-blue water, Princess Cays offers cruisers a relaxing beach day. Or spend your time on the island enjoying water sports—the choice is yours!

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Here’s everything you need to know to enjoy your day at Princess Cays. Be sure to check out my Princess Cays FAQ at the bottom of the page, where I answer the most commonly asked questions about this exclusive port of call.

Princess Cays: the basics

Princess Cays sits at the southern tip of Eleuthera, in the Out Islands of the Bahamas. Eleuthera is about 50 miles (80km) from Nassau and 263 miles (423 km) from Miami.

Princess Cays sits on over 40 acres of land, and the resort features more than a half-mile of beaches for cruisers to enjoy.

The private island destination opened in 1992, and underwent significant renovations in 2018, including constructing a larger marina, installing WiFi connectivity, building new guest services stations, and extensive landscaping improvements.

The island is a popular port of call for many of Princess’ and Carnival’s Caribbean cruises. Without a deep harbor for docking, guests reach the port via tenders. These smaller boats ferry groups of passengers between the cruise ship and the tender dock on the island.

Learn more: Everything You Need to Know About Tender Ports on a Cruise

Unfortunately, during bad weather and rough sea conditions tendering to the island often isn’t safe. This port of call is canceled more often than ports with cruise ship docks, especially during the hurricane season from June through November.

Beaches on Princess Cays

Princess Cays offers multiple sandy beaches, so there’s always plenty of room for sunbathing, swimming, and snorkeling from the beach.

Most visitors flock to the main beach with its easy access to the Grill Crazy buffet lunch venue, restrooms, bars, and souvenir shops.

But taking a slightly longer walk in either direction will give you access to less-crowded beach areas that are still close enough to the action.

From the tender port, walk past the main beach to find the smaller North Beach. Or venture a bit farther to the small cove across from the colorful bungalows—this beach is open to everyone and features fantastic snorkeling! Swim out from this little beach and to the left to view live corals and thousands of colorful fish.

For an even more secluded beach experience, head to the southern end of Princess Cays. Many first-time visitors don’t even know that this part of the resort exists!

To get there, head back and to the right (with your back facing the water) after you exit the tender. You’ll see a small wooden bridge that will take you right to this much quieter area.

But don’t worry that you’ll be far away from amenities—this section also has restrooms, bars, a small straw market, and a BBQ buffet lunch that serves the same choices you’ll find on the busier side of the resort.

More experienced snorkelers will love this beach! Swim out and to the left toward the reef to see colorful fish of all sizes, large corals, sea urchins, and other marine creatures.

This section of the water can get a bit more choppy, especially when the tide is coming in. The lifeguards don’t patrol this section as closely as in the busier areas, so snorkel and swim at your own risk.

Or just relax on the sand in one of the loungers—there are plenty here in both sunny and shaded spots. Princess actually claims to have over 3000 complimentary lounge chairs available for guests!

Tip: If you want to be near the water but need shade, rent a clamshell for $39.95. These collapsible sun shelters will fit two loungers inside.

Adventurers will want to make the trek out to the point at the southernmost tip of the beach to truly get away from it all. You’ll need to wear water shoes or waterproof sandals to navigate the terrain, but the short hike is so worth it!

Follow the coast to the tip (you can see the point at the top of the photo above) to reach a secluded area where all you can hear is the crash of waves and the plaintive cries of seabirds.

Here you’ll also find the burial site of two young local women who died on the island in the late 1940s. The simple grave markers are no longer visible (I believe 2017’s Hurricane Irma may have knocked them from their upright position and covered them with sand). But you can see the decorative rock piles that visitors have left in their memory at this peaceful place.

Water sports and activities on Princess Cays

If you’re looking for an active day out on the water, Princess Cays has you covered with lots of water sports to choose from! You can book a guided activity or rent equipment for a DIY option.

Be sure to book guided water sports before your cruise (via the cruise line’s online planner) for the best availability. Or you can book on board if you’re a last-minute decision maker.

Equipment rentals are available to book before your cruise as well. When you pre-pay for rentals, you’ll have a ticket delivered to your stateroom that you can redeem at the rental desk. Or you can rent right on the island with your cruise card or medallion! Check the map by the first aid station when you exit the tender for rental locations.

For those who prefer to explore the water on their own, available water sports rentals include:

  • Water noodle rental ($4.95 for six hours)
  • Float rental ($9.95 for six hours)
  • Aqua chair rental ($9.95 for six hours)
  • Snorkel equipment rental ($19.95 for six hours)
  • Snorkel vest rental ($9.95 for six hours)
  • Oceanviewing sea board rental ($14.95 per hour)
  • One-person ocean kayak rental ($19.95 per hour)
  • Two-person ocean kayak rental ($24.95 per hour)
  • Stand-up paddle board rental – SUP ($24.95 per hour)
  • Two-person aqua bike rental ($24.95 per hour)
  • Four-person paddle wheeler rental ($29.95 per hour)
  • Hobie Wave sailboat rental ($49.95 per hour for up to 3 people)

(All prices are in USD and are current at time of publication)

You can also book tickets for guided water sports. Options include:

  • Banana boat ride ($19.95 per person, 15 minutes)
  • Surf fishing ($29.95 per person, 2.5 hours)
  • Lagoon clear-bottom kayaking adventure ($39.95 per person, 75 minutes)
  • Snorkeling tour for experienced snorkelers ($54.95 per person, 90 minutes)

Of course, you can always swim or snorkel from the beach on your own. I always bring my own full-face snorkel mask and gear when I cruise. They’re not expensive at all, and the masks are much better and easier to use than the rentals!

Read more: Why You Need a Full Face Snorkel Mask for Your Next Cruise

Shore excursions on Princess Cays

Most shore excursions for your day at the private destination operate right on the resort grounds or very close by.

Cruisers have the opportunity to buy tickets to feed and interact with friendly stingrays at a cove near the tender dock, or try your hand at surf fishing just offshore.

Or enjoy adventuring by bicycle or on a clear-bottom kayak. Experienced snorkelers can book tickets to see marine life with a guide at a live coral reef.

Popular shore excursions at Princess Cays include:

  • Island Bike Adventure ($29.95 per person, 1.5 hours)
  • Stingray Beach Encounter ($39.95 per person, 1 hour)
  • Coastal Cruise ($34.95 per person, 1 hour)
  • Coastal Cruise + Snorkeling ($59.95 per person, 1 hour cruise + 6 hours snorkel rental)
  • Glass-Bottom Boat Cruise ($45.95 per person, 1 hour)

For a complete list of shore excursions (including prices) for your cruise line, check out these resources:

Tip: Guests with early shore excursion tickets through the cruise line can take advantage of priority tendering to Princess Cays – you won’t need to wait in line for a tender ticket!

Other activities on Princess Cays

Although many cruisers who don’t book a shore excursion just enjoy a relaxing day at the beach, Princess Cays also offers other activities that are free of charge.

On the south side of the resort you’ll find beach volleyball and a basketball court, perfect for a bit of exercise (or just watching a lively game).

Your cruise activities team will also usually host some fun contests after lunch—compete in the tug of war or potato sack races and you could win a prize!

Pelicans’ Perch kids area

If you’re cruising with younger kids, they’ll love Pelicans’ Perch, a small fenced-off play area with a playground, swimming pool, and a covered activity pavilion.

Pelicans’ Perch isn’t a drop-off location like the kids’ clubs on the ship, so a parent or guardian needs to stay when their kids are enjoying the facility.

The freshwater wading pool is very shallow, perfect for little ones to splash around. Kids do need to be potty trained to swim in the pool—swim diapers aren’t allowed.

Pelicans’ Perch features plenty of loungers and bench seating for parents to relax while watching the kids, and there’s also a small toilet facility for potty breaks.

Food and dining on Princess Cays

After a morning of fresh air and activity, a hearty island lunch will be just what you’re looking for. The resort has two identical BBQ buffet venues, one on the main side and one on the south side. Grill Crazy BBQ Grill is in the center of the action on the main side, between Pelican’s Perch and the Crow’s Nest Overlook.

On the south side you’ll find Sea Breeze Grill, located just over the bridge. Both venues have plenty of sheltered outdoor picnic table seating available to eat your meal. Or you can take your food back to your loungers and enjoy it on the beach or under a swaying palm tree!

If your ship isn’t at full capacity (as I noticed on my 2021 Carnival Pride cruise during COVID), Sea Breeze Grill may not open due to the lower number of passengers on the island.

The complimentary lunch is usually available from 11:30 AM through 1:30 PM and features casual beach food like hotdogs, cheeseburgers, and jerk chicken. There are also salads and side dishes, along with a selection of desserts.

Be sure to stop by the free fruit stand (it’s just outside of the venue) to load up on freshly-sliced tropical fruit to complete your meal.

You’ll also find complimentary self-serve drinks inside each buffet venue, including iced tea, lemonade, and water.

Tip: Take along a refillable tumbler (I like this one from Yeti with an attached straw) to avoid waiting in a long line for drink refills—the cups they provide are tiny!

Although there isn’t an exclusive dining venue for suite or Sanctuary Bungalow guests, anyone renting a bungalow also has the option to order a gourmet picnic lunch, delivered right to your door for an additional fee.

Bars on Princess Cays

There’s nothing nicer on a beach day than a cool, refreshing drink! Princess Cays has plenty of bar options for you to choose from, located on both sides of the resort.

  • Bungalow Bar: located near the Private and Sanctuary Bungalows
  • Coconut Bar: located near the end ofNorth Beach by the Offshore Pavilion
  • Banana Beach Bar: located in the center of the resort, across from the main beach
  • Reef Runner Bar: located on the south end of the resort, near the Sea Breeze Grill

All the bars are open to all cruisers—there are no exclusive bars set aside for suite or Sanctuary guests.

Tip: Be very careful with the wooden chairs at the bars! They can be very tippy if you lean back against the backrest!

Some of the bars do allow smoking, so keep an eye out for ashtrays on the bar if you’d like to avoid smoke!

Additionally, there’s usually a cold drink station set up near the picnic tables outside of Grill Crazy BBQ Pavilion to quickly grab bottles of water, soft drinks, and cans of beer. Standard bar prices apply.

Using your drink package on Princess Cays

Cruisers often ask me if you can use your drink package at Princess Cays. It depends on your cruise line! Princess cruisers can use their drink packages at the private island destination. However, none of the bars offer fountain soda—only cans—so you’ll have to pay for soda even with a beverage package.

If you’re visiting on a Carnival ship, your drink package won’t work on the island. Instead, you’ll need to pay for all drinks at the bar with your Sail & Sign card.

Learn more: Carnival Cruise Line Drink Packages: The Ultimate Guide

Renting Private and Sanctuary Bungalows

If you’re looking for an exclusive spot to relax during your private island getaway, booking one of the candy-colored bungalows is the way to go! Cool off inside your own air-conditioned cabana, or lounge on the patio or under your umbrella.

Each bungalow is equipped with a ceiling fan, a table and four chairs, and an outdoor shower. Your bungalow will be stocked with towels, two flotation rafts to use for the day, and a cooler full of soft drinks and water. You’ll also find some light snacks inside—usually fresh fruit and chips, salsa, and guacamole.

Waiters will occasionally come by offering drink service, and the open-air Bungalow Bar is also just steps away from the bungalow area.

The bungalows can comfortably accommodate four people, though you can purchase passes for up to two additional guests.

All the bungalows at Princess Cays are located on the far end of the main part of the resort, past the main beach area and North Beach. If you need assistance getting to and from your bungalow and the tender dock, crew members can transport you via golf cart.

There are two categories of bungalow on Princess Cays: Private Bungalows and Sanctuary Bungalows. Both cabana types are sized similarly—but Sanctuary Bungalows feature a lanai over the patio and also have outdoor water misters for additional comfort.

The main differences are that Sanctuary Bungalows are reserved for adults only (18 years and up), and they sit in a private roped-off area only accessible to ticketed guests. This is the best option if you want peace and quiet, though it’s a bit farther away from beaches and restrooms.

Prices for bungalow rentals are as follows:

  • Private Bungalow: $229.95 for up to four people
  • Sanctuary Bungalow: $299.95 for up to four people
  • Up to two additional guests: $25.95 per person (sold onboard only)

Guests booked in a bungalow also enjoy priority tendering to Princess Cays (tendering back to the ship is on a first come first served basis).

Shopping on Princess Cays

Whether you’d like to pick up a few Bahamas souvenirs or just some essential beach day items you forgot to pack, there are several shopping spots at the resort to suit your needs.

There are two indoor stores on Princess Cays: the Bahama Treasures Shop and Tropical Treasures Shop, both centrally located just north of the First Aid Station. Here you’ll find beachy clothing for men, women, and kids, along with essentials like sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, flip flops, snorkel gear, and sand toys.

The shops also sell a nice selection of typical souvenirs including t-shirts, mugs, shot glasses, and other trinkets with a Bahamas theme.

More unusual souvenirs in these shops include crystal jewelry, dinnerware, leather accessories, and decorative wood carvings. You can even take home some of the famous Andros batik fabric, either by the yard or made into table linens or resort wear.

Outside there are several local vendors selling handmade crafts straw-market style. You’ll often see artisans weaving or making jewelry and other souvenirs you can purchase. Some will even personalize items for gift-giving!

Local vendor stalls are located near the indoor shops on the main part of the resort as well as along the pathway to the beach over the bridge on the south side.

Although you can pay with your cruise card or medallion at the indoor shops, most of the local vendors accept cash only—although a few are starting to accept credit/debit.

US or Bahamian dollars are both fine (the Bahamian dollar is tied to USD, so the value is the same). It’s a good idea to take some smaller bills with you for shopping because you’ll likely receive change in Bahamian dollars.

Amenities on the island

Princess Cays offers several amenities to make sure you’re comfortable on the island. Most importantly, there are plenty of clean restrooms with changing areas! Restrooms are located near the First Aid Station as well as by the Private Bungalows, and there’s also a restroom block on the south side near the Sea Breeze Grill.

There aren’t any private shower facilities on Princess Cays, but there are several outdoor showers for a quick rinse scattered around the resort.

Lockers are available for daily rental, at $9.95 per day. You can buy a locker ticket via your online cruise planner, or on-island at one of the three locker rental stations.

You’ll find lockers in three spots: near the First Aid Station, at the Snorkel Rental near the Private Bungalows, and on the south side near the Reef Runner Bar.

Tip: Map out where you’ll spend most of the day before getting your locker key. Once you’ve committed to a locker location, you can’t switch to a locker in a different part of the resort.

The First Aid building, which you’ll see as soon as you exit the tender, is available for anyone needing emergency medical attention (or just a bandage or ice pack) during the visit.

Other points of interest at the resort

While you’re exploring Princess Cays, there are a few other points of interest you might like to check out.

Crow’s Neck Overlook

One popular spot is the top of the Crow’s Nest Overlook, a three-story wooden structure next to the Grill Crazy BBQ.

Climb the steps to the top for a panoramic look at the resort, and be sure to take a selfie with the perfect unobstructed view of your ship just offshore!

Caretaker’s House

You might be wondering if anyone lives on Princess Cays (wouldn’t that be nice?) The resort does have a caretaker to provide maintenance to the resort year-round.

The Caretaker’s House, a small ranch-style home with a lovely screened porch, is just off the paved path near the shops and straw market. It’s not open to visit, but you can walk by and dream about living here!

Paradise Lagoon

The eastern side of the resort is bordered by Paradise Lagoon, a tranquil body of water where the kayaking excursions launch.

When there’s not a kayaking group getting ready to leave, you can enjoy gazing out at the water from the sandy beach behind Pelicans’ Perch. Or head to Lagoon Lookout on the south side behind the restroom block.

Offshore Pavilion

Between North Beach and the snorkeling area is the Offshore Pavilion. This is a great spot to watch colorful fish swimming around its piers. It’s also a good place to snap a pic of your ship, especially if you don’t want to climb the stairs to the top of the Crow’s Nest.

How to get around Princess Cays

Unlike some private island destinations, Princess Cays isn’t huge—you can walk from one end to the other in about ten or fifteen minutes. There isn’t a tram to get around the resort, but there are wide, paved walking paths from the tender area to the bungalows on the north side.

If you have mobility challenges, the north side of the resort is wheelchair-friendly, while the south side does have a few steps leading up to and down from the bridge that accesses that area.

However, as with many tender ports, wheelchair or scooter access on the tender boats isn’t guaranteed. Most tenders aren’t roll-on, and crew can’t assist in carrying guests or devices onto the boats. Check with your cruise line and the crew on board before your port day to see if you’re able to tender to the island.

Leaving Princess Cays to explore Eleuthera

Many cruisers wonder if leaving Princess Cays to visit the rest of the island of Eleuthera is a possibility. Pre-COVID, cruise lines did offer some excursions to see Eleuthera’s highlights. However, as of 2021, most of these excursions aren’t being offered.

The only exception is the short Island Bike Adventure that lets you see a few scenic areas near the resort by pedal bike.

If you’d like to sightsee on your own, you can leave the resort area—but readily accessible transportation by taxi or bus is non-existent unless you make your own private arrangements before your visit.

The exit gate from Princess Cays is located near Love Boat Marina where the tenders dock. Walk back away from the water as if you were going to the southern part of Princess Cays, and you’ll see an open gate with a security guard on your left.

If you do choose to exit through the gate, be sure that all members of your party (including kids) have their passport or birth certificate/ID, cruise card or medallion, and vaccination card to re-enter the resort area.

In the past, there was usually another straw market set up just past the gate for some added shopping opportunities, but this wasn’t there during my October 2021 visit.

Quick tips for visiting Princess Cays

From my visits to Princess Cays, I’ve picked up a few tips and best practices to help you have the best beach day—especially if it’s your first time on the island!

  • Watch the daily newsletter (or the planner in your cruise line’s app) to find out when and where tender tickets will be handed out.
  • Bring beach towels from the ship (and take advantage of the towel exchange stand to swap any wet towels for dry ones).
  • Pack water shoes if you plan to swim or walk along the shore—many areas are rocky.
  • Head to the south side of Princess Cays to avoid the crowds at the main beach.
  • Choose a locker rental that’s in a location close to where you’ll be hanging out. The first lockers you’ll see aren’t close to the main beaches.
  • Bring your own snorkel gear to save on expensive daily rental fees.
  • Pack reef-safe sunscreen to help protect the live corals surrounding the island.
  • Bring bug spray to combat the sand fleas on the beach.
  • Plan to head back to the ship at least an hour before the last tender to avoid the “rush hour” crowds.

Helpful resources for your Caribbean cruise

Princess Cays FAQ

What country is Princess Cays in?

Princess Cays is located in the Bahamas, on the southern end of the island of Eleuthera.

How big is Princess Cays?

Princess Cays sits on 40+ acres of land and features more than a half-mile of sandy beaches.

How do you pronounce Princess Cays?

The word “cay”, meaning a small, low island, is generally pronounced like the word “key”. Native Bahamians use this pronunciation. However, the pronunciation “kay” is also widely used.

You’ll hear the ship’s crew and other passengers referring to the private destination as Princess “Key”, Princess “Keys”, Princess “Kay”, or Princess “Kays”. Locals, including the salespeople at the straw markets, tend to call the area Princess “Key”.

What’s the weather like on Princess Cays?

Princess Cays has a tropical climate with warm weather year-round. Average highs in the winter months are around 75°F (24°C). Summer’s average high temps are around 88°F (31 °C).

Winter tends to be the dry season at Princess Cays, while summers bring more rain and often daily thunderstorms. Hurricane season in the Bahamas runs from June 1 through November 30.

Is Princess Cays a private island?

Princess Cays is Princess Cruises’ private island destination on the island of Eleuthera. The southern tip of Eleuthera is reserved for cruise guests, while the rest of the island is populated and open to the public.

Can you visit Princess Cays if you’re not on a cruise?

As a private cruise line destination, Princess Cays is only accessible to guests visiting on a cruise ship.

Who owns Princess Cays?

Princess Cays is owned by Princess Cruises, which in turn is owned by Carnival Corporation.

What cruise lines visit Princess Cays?

Ships from both Princess Cruises and Carnival Cruise Line visit Princess Cays on select Caribbean itineraries.

How many cruise ships visit Princess Cays per day?

Only one cruise ship visits Princess Cays per day, allowing for an uncrowded experience.

Is Princess Cays a tender port?

Princess Cays is a tender port, meaning that guests reach the island via complimentary water shuttles from the cruise ship.

Is there a charge for beach chairs on Princess Cays?

Beach chairs are complimentary on Princess Cays.

Do drink packages work on Princess Cays?

If you’re visiting on a Princess cruise, you can use your beverage package (except the specialty coffee package) on the island. Visitors on a Carnival cruise can’t use any shipboard drinks packages on Princess Cays.

Is food free on Princess Cays?

A buffet-style beach BBQ lunch is provided for all guests at no charge. The buffet includes burgers, hot dogs, salad, side dishes, desserts, fresh fruit, and a selection of beverages including iced tea, lemonade, and water. Lunch is usually served from 11:30 AM until 1:30 PM.

Are there lockers on Princess Cays?

Lockers are available in several locations around Princess Cays. Daily locker rental is $10 per day, and can be pre-purchased or paid for on the island.

Is Princess Cays wheelchair accessible?

Most areas on Princess Cays are wheelchair-accessible with wide, paved paths from the tender dock to the dining venue and bars, restrooms, straw market, and bungalow areas.

However, wheelchair access to the island is at the captain’s discretion and is not guaranteed on the tender boats to and from the island. Consult with the cruise line before your cruise (and again with the crew on board) if you use a mobility device.

Does Princess Cays have a water park or pools?

Princess Cays does not have a water park. There is one small children’s pool, located in the Pelicans’ Perch play area.

Do you need to bring cash for Princess Cays?

You’ll only need cash if you’d like to purchase souvenirs from the straw markets. All other purchases at the resort can be made with your cruise card or medallion.

Can you rent a bungalow, cabana or villa on Princess Cays?

There are small private bungalows for rent on Princess Cays, including adults-only bungalows in the exclusive Sanctuary area.

Are there lifeguards at Princess Cays?

There are lifeguards on duty who monitor the main beaches. Less-busy beaches may not have lifeguards on duty in all areas.

Is WiFi available at Princess Cays?

Medallion Net WiFi is available (for a fee) for guests visiting Princess Cays on a Princess ship. The WiFi is not accessible to guests visiting on a Carnival cruise.

Is smoking or vaping permitted at Princess Cays?

Cigarette smoking and vaping is permitted at Princess Cays, but only in designated smoking areas around the resort (look for signs or standing ashtrays). Smoking and vaping is also allowed at many of the open-air bars (look for ashtrays on the bar).

Have you been to Princess Cays on a Caribbean cruise? Or do you have a cruise planned that visits this private destination? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!


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Linzey

Monday 22nd of November 2021

This answered any question I've ever had about Princess Cay.. and I had no clue what it looked like. Now that my youngest is out of diapers, looks like we can go! It looks so fun and that playground looks amazing. Thank you for putting together this awesome guide!

Mijia Eggers

Sunday 21st of November 2021

We stopped there for one day from one of our cruise trips. We rented a car and drove around the island with lots of fun. We can think of staying there for a week as well.

Pafoua

Saturday 20th of November 2021

Thanks for sharing! I found the FAQ section so helpful! I've never been on a cruise before, but now I'll need to consider one to visit Princess Cays! I also love your pictures--the water is so clear and beautiful!

Ildiko

Saturday 20th of November 2021

This place looks like paradise! I love the clear, turquoise water. And there is so much to do!! My top picks would be paddle-boarding, snorkeling, or sea kayaking. To snorkel in the live reefs and see the colorful marine life would be amazing.

Kayy

Saturday 20th of November 2021

I would love to visit Bahamas one day. Thanks for the detailed guide on Princess Cays. Love the pictures as well.