Tuesday, March 4, 2014

MSC Divina Visits Great Stirrup Cay

MSC Divina at anchor off Great Stirrup Cay
We’ve known of Great Stirrup Cay as Norwegian Cruise Line’s private island, which we’ve enjoyed visiting numerous times over the past 20-plus years, so we were delighted to see it on our MSC Divina itinerary. Unfortunately we almost missed a day ashore on the pristine beach due to inclement weather. Fortunately, it cleared up enough for the ship to get the go-ahead and we proceeded ashore after a couple anxious hours of waiting.

Tender docking
Three tenders based on Great Stirrup Cay ferried us ashore from MSC Divina. Of note is that two of them—Little Norway I & Little Norway II—were once the shore tenders carried on the bow of the SS Norway. They approach the island’s docks bow first and passengers disembark via a ramp as pictured here. No more walking off right onto the sand, which is a huge improvement. With the new docking facilities away from the beach front, the beach is now wide open and there’s room for many more loungers. Another plus is that snorkelers don’t have to worry about straying into the tendering area.

The main beach
There’s a lot more to do on Great Stirrup Cay than in the past as well. In addition to swimming and snorkeling independently, excursions offered by MSC Divina’s tour desk included a snorkel adventure to view an old shipwreck, wave runner and kayaking tours, a marine life eco boat tour, and a Bahamian “Stingray City” experience. Active cruisers took to stand-up paddle boards in the island’s cove, while others got a bit of exercise by pedal powering in paddle boats that accommodate two or four passengers. If they didn’t bring your own, snorkel equipment was available to rent—note that snorkel vests are mandatory and the cost is $6.90 for the day. There is also a Bahamian shopping village and nearby a 40 foot high and 175 foot long Hippo water slide ($19.90 for the day). For relaxation in the warm clear water, soft foam floats ($13.90) and large inflatable rafts ($26.90) were available. A bit of personal shade-for-two is offered in clamshells that rent for $29.90 for the day. The highlight is the gorgeous beach and crystal clear water.
Private Cabanas
The ultimate spots for enjoyment on Cabana Beach, a secluded area adjacent to the main beach, and Fiesta Beach, overlooking Bertram’s Cove, are private cabanas that include just about anything you could ask for during your stay. The larger Cabana Beach cabanas accommodate six guests for $249.90 and smaller Fiesta Beach cabanas accommodate four for $199.00. Included are bottled water, fruit, tortilla chips, and salsa upon arrival and either four or two floating mats respectively. Outfitted with a table, chairs, loungers and ceiling fans, they provide an idyllic spot to spend the day.

Beach Barbeque
No day at the beach would be complete without a barbeque prepared by MSC Divina’s chefs and staff. Dishes included jerk chicken and other barbeque favorites such as hot dogs and burgers with all the trimmings. Because this is an MSC cruise, we also had delicious cheese and peperoni pizza with Chicago-style thick crust. Desserts included a variety of cookies and pineapple cake. Tropica beverages were available at a number of beach bars, including the exclusive Bacardi Bar.

Anyone who was stressed out wondering whether we’d make it ashore could book a massage in a special spa facility on the island.
All-in-all, despite the initial drizzle, we had a good time on Great Stirrup Cay, a Bahamian island we look forward to visiting again when the sun is shining.

Bahamian shopping & the waterfront
Hippo slide hovering overhead
Images © CruiseDiva.com

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