I Got a Taste of Royal Caribbean's Private Island CocoCay — Here's What to Expect When It Opens As a Record-breaking Water Park
You'll be able to ride the tallest waterslide in North America and hang ten in the Caribbean's largest wave pool.
The daily grind is a necessary but oftentimes torturous thing, and for most, escaping it boils down to two main factors: money and time off. If you’re lucky, you’ll receive two glorious weeks of paid vacation to enjoy any which way you choose — parceling out your days carefully to stretch your time off throughout the year in small increments, or going extravagant with one long, epic getaway to some faraway location.
But there’s another option, too, that allows you a total change of pace — and time to lounge on a private island — while still getting you back to your desk Monday morning. And no, you don't have to be a yacht-owning billionaire.
After an expansive $90-million makeover, Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas is a cruise ship that offers those who are looking to stretch their time — and their dollar — a Caribbean retreat without missing a beat in their daily hustle. Departing from Miami on a Friday afternoon, the Mariner of the Seas sets sail on a three-night escape to the Bahamas, stopping in Nassau and on Royal Caribbean’s very own private island, CocoCay. It will have you back in port by Monday morning — allowing you to hop on a flight back to the office before your boss even steps through the door.
But it’s not just about the 72 hours you’ll spend feeling like you’ve been transported to an entirely new world inside the 1,000-foot vessel; it’s about the endless activities, both on board and off, and the surprisingly affordable price tag that comes with it.
“We’re making the conscious decision to really break away from the norm,” Jim Berra, chief marketing officer of Royal Caribbean International, told Travel + Leisure. “So whether you’re a foodie, a bar hopper, adventurist, or just want to kick back, we’ve got you covered.”
The best part? You can experience a vacation tailored to fit your needs without breaking the bank or requesting a handful of days off. Cruise prices start at $256 per person for a three-night excursion.
“We’ve found that people are taking shorter and more frequent vacations,” Berra notes. And he’s not wrong — nowadays, it’s much more common to see your co-workers OOO email pop up for only a day or two, forgoing the week-long vacations that make coming back to work feel much like misery. And recent studies have shown taking multiple short trips throughout the year can actually be better for your mental health than one long one.
“With ships like Mariner, we’ve now packed the adventure travelers want in a short three-night weekend or four-night weekday vacation. Pair that with the same high-quality service and amenities you would expect from Royal Caribbean, and you’re definitely making the most of your three or four days away from the daily grind,” he said.
And the Mariner of the Seas does deliver on both adventure and relaxation. Before even embarking on the journey to the Bahamas, you’ll already switch into vacation mode as soon as you board the ship. Grab a fruity cocktail at any of the nine bars located on board and explore the hidden nooks and crannies on each of its 15 decks, where you’ll find cozy lounge areas, perfect for reading or sunbathing, and stellar 360-degree views of what will soon become endless crystal-blue ocean.
And, while you’re sipping on that strawberry daiquiri, consider a small splurge: the deluxe beverage package, which, at $55 per day, gets you unlimited amounts of beer, wine, and cocktails — a steal for anyone who’s looking to kick back and relax poolside for hours on end while the ship brings you closer to another kind of paradise, Royal Caribbean’s very own private island, CocoCay.
However, if imbibing isn’t your thing, consider using that spare change instead to upgrade to dining at one of the four specialty restaurants. Jamie’s Italian, Royal Caribbean’s restaurant with renowned chef Jamie Oliver, is worthy of the investment — if solely to nosh on its impressive charcuterie board and handmade pastas — as is Izumi Sushi, where your hibachi chef will double as your entertainment for the evening, tossing his cooking instruments effortlessly in the air while getting the whole table to cheer him on.
But don’t forget about the actual activities on board the Mariner of the Seas, of which there are plenty. For some, fun may come in the form of the FlowRider, a 40-foot-long surf simulator that boasts unbeatable views at the rear of the ship. While I lacked the grace and dexterity, I found myself enjoying watching others either succeeding or wiping out on their surfboards, all while being in the prime location to overlook an epic sunset on the seas. For others, fun might be found a few yards away at The Perfect Storm, a pair of three-story-high racing waterslides that will undoubtedly bring out your competitive side.
If you prefer staying dry, get your blood pumping at the Sky Pad, a virtual reality experience that’s heightened by having its guests strapped into a bungee trampoline, or a playful round of glow-in-the-dark laser tag with your crew.
But let’s be honest: as much as you could spend your days lounging on the top deck with your posse, working on absolutely nothing other than your tans, the biggest reason to hop aboard the Mariner of the Seas is because you can just as quickly hop off the next morning, finding yourself transported to a tropical island in less than 24 hours at CocoCay.
By May 2019, CocoCay will have earned itself a veritable new name: Perfect Day at CocoCay. But until then, you’ll still get to experience a relaxing day on soft white sands overlooking Instagrammable Caribbean waters (equipped with a floating bar, I might add).
Once CocoCay’s transformation is complete, the island will have the perfect combination of both thrill and chill. Berra says the island will have amenities like the tallest waterslide in North America, a helium balloon dubbed Up, Up and Away that will go up 450 feet “to offer the best – and highest – vantage point in the Bahamas,” and a wave pool that will be coined as the Caribbean’s largest to date.
At the end of your “perfect day,” you’ll head back on the Mariner of the Seas with sand in your shoes, a slight buzz from the island’s addictive drinks, and perhaps a few new, welcome tan lines. And after your few days away from reality, you’ll wake up back in port in Miami, totally revitalized and ready to tackle a new work week. You could hop on a flight back home and kick things into high gear at the office, but taking a personal day to sustain that laid-back island vibe for just a little longer couldn’t hurt, would it? Don’t worry, we won’t tell.