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Great Stirrup Cay Basics

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Scenes of Great Stirrup Cay

Fast Facts: Great Stirrup Cay

Great Stirrup Cay is the northernmost island in the Berry Island chain. It really is a deserted island; the locals who sell arts, crafts, souvenirs and knickknacks in the straw market reside on nearby Great Harbor Island, and commute to Great Stirrup Cay whenever a ship comes into port.

Great Stirrup Cay is Norwegian Cruise Line's own Bahamian "out island;" it's adjacent to Little Stirrup Cay, the locale of Royal Caribbean's CocoCay. From your ship, you'll be able to see the Royal Caribbean vessels anchored off the smaller island. If you take the parasailing excursion, you'll get a good lay of the land of the two islands.

Great Stirrup Cay has a tropical marine climate, with year-round daytime temperatures ranging from the low to high 80s F. The dry season begins in November and lasts through April, while the rainy season commences in May and extends through October, with the heaviest rains taking place from June through August.


Great Stirrup Cay map


First Impressions


Great Stirrup Cay
© Norwegian Cruise Line

Great Stirrup Cay is a small, flat 250-square acre island at the north end of the Berry Island chain. There's not much there save for the NCL facility, although there is a lighthouse and the remains of a satellite tracking station that was built by the United States Air Force. If you want to do a little exploring, you can take a walk to the lighthouse; along the way you'll see the remains of the satellite tracking station. Nearby there's the "Great Stirrup Cay International Airport," which is a helipad now used only for medical evacuations.

Your ship will lay anchor off Great Stirrup Cay, and you'll take a tender from your ship aboard one of four new double decker tender boats; the tenders take between 5 to 10 minutes to bring you from ship to shore. Your tender will dock at the island's new Tender Pavilion located in the new marina basin. From there, it's a short and easy walk to the main beach area. It's best to get an early tender ticket from your ship if you want to enjoy the maximum amount of time on the island.

All shore excursions depart within a short walk of the main shore complex.

Throughout your time on Great Stirrup Cay, a band will be playing reggae and calypso music to get you in the mood of having fun. If you're hungry, a BBQ lunch (and pizza) is served on the island, and you can enjoy your repast on picnic tables under the palm trees, or in the covered dining room facility. If you're thirsty, you can buy adult beverages at the Island Bar, located in the center of the beach area, at the new Lighthouse Beach Bar, which is sponsored by the tequila brand Patron, at the Dining Facility, and at a number of satellite bars that dot the main beach area. Non-alcoholic beverages are readily available.

NCL has made a significant commitment to expand the facilities on Great Stirrup Cay. Over the last few years, the company has spent $25 million to build new private cabanas, create an expanded beachfront area, build a new straw market, construct the Fate of the Fancy snorkel trail and develop a new stingray encounter attraction.

Guests really enjoy their time on Great Stirrup Cay. Your time on the island is what you make of it--the watchword is having fun!


Latest News for Travelers to Great Stirrup Cay


There are many changes afoot on Great Stirrup Cay. On June 2, 2016, NCL announced that it is making additional substantial investments on the island, including the addition of new luxurious amenities, new adventure activities, enhanced and expanded dining options that, together, will present an upgraded atmosphere for guests visiting the island. Most of these improvements are expected to be completed by January 2017.

Pathway
© Norwegian Cruise Line

Great Stirrup Cay's 10 acre beach features a new half mile oceanside boardwalk that spans the length of the shore with more than 100,000 square feet of pathway, offering easy access to the white sand beaches. Just adjacent to the beach, guests looking for a more active island experience can visit the new half-acre entertainment and activity complex, featuring a stage for live music, games and entertainers; basketball and volleyball courts; ping-pong tables; and a shaded picnic area where families can play board games or relax together. A new air-conditioned reception area serves as the central hub for family fun, where guests can plan their day, reserve activities, rent board games and have access to expansive changing rooms.

In addition, NCL is building a new zip line course featuring more than 1,000 feet of zip line; the island's two parallel zip lines will offer the chance for some friendly competition and high-flying races. Those who prefer to take to the sea for exploration can snorkel through the island's new mystical underwater sculpture garden.

All dining and bar venues have been updated island-wide, adding new resort-style decking, shaded areas, high-top seating at all bars and family-style seating that adds 50 percent more seating capacity at all dining outlets. Plus, a new complimentary taco bar, Abaco Taco, has been added near the island’s entertainment hub, and there is a new LandShark Bar & Grill, offering a mix of casual dining, free-flowing drinks and fun, with panoramic ocean views and indoor and outdoor seating. Menu items will be available a la carte. 

In the Summer 2017, NCL will be unveiling a first for the industry: a private retreat on their own private island. This area will feature a secluded, pristine beach; an ocean view restaurant; a posh Mandara Spa; a sheltered family area; and 22 air-conditioned private villas available for reservations, ranging in size from studios to two-bedrooms. The lagoon will be available on a complimentary basis to The Haven and Suite guests, along with guests who purchase an on-island Mandara Spa service. In addition, a limited amount of passes to the Lagoon will available for purchase on each sailing.

Villa
© Norwegian Cruise Line

Guests who purchase a reservation for one of the luxury beach villas will enjoy a completely pampered experience from ship to shore. Studio villas will feature an outdoor terrace, private bathroom and living/dining area, and can accommodate two to four guests. One bedroom villas will accommodate four to six guests and feature a bedroom, private bathroom, living and dining areas and outdoor terrace with a hot tub. The ultimate island escape, Great Stirrup Cay's two bedroom villas will accommodate up to 10 guests and feature two bedrooms, two private bathrooms, living and dining areas, and an expansive outdoor terrace with a dining area and hot tub.

Lagoon Restaurant
© Norwegian Cruise Line

Exclusively for guests of the lagoon retreat, the two-story Silver Palm restaurant will offer complimentary dining  in a stunning setting, with both indoor and outdoor seating, as well as a rooftop terrace overlooking the area's expansive ocean views. All luxury beach villas will also include food and beverage service for guests who wish to enjoy refreshments in the privacy of their villa.


Time Zone


Great Stirrup Cay is on Eastern Time, five hours earlier than Greenwich Mean Time during Standard Time, and four hours earlier than GMT during Daylight Savings Time. Daylight savings time begins on the second Sunday of March, and ends on the first Sunday of November.

Bahamas flag Great Stirrup Cay Local Time
 


Language


English is universally spoken in Great Stirrup Cay. Other languages are spoken by NCL staff members.


Dealing with Money on Great Stirrup Cay


Currency



dollar bill

While the Bahamian Dollar is the Bahamas official currency, on Great Stirrup Cay you'll be buying your drinks, souvenirs and excursions, and renting equipment, on your Stateroom Key Card (NCL and MSC) or WorldCard (Oceania). And for most cruises, the functional currency is the US dollar.

Banks and ATMs

Hey, you're on a desert island in the middle of nowhere. Banks or ATMs? Fuggedaboutit!

Just remember to bring your Stateroom Key Card (NCL and MSC) or WorldCard (Oceania) to pay for your drinks, souvenirs, equipment rentals and last-minute excursions. And if you plan on shopping for straw goods in the small marketplace, bring cash (US or Bahamian dollars).

Using US Dollars in Great Stirrup Cay

US dollars are widely accepted at the straw market in Great Stirrup Cay.


Weather


Kayaker
© Norwegian Cruise Line

Great Stirrup Cay enjoys a warm, agreeable climate that varies little year-round. Cooled by the trade winds that blow almost continually throughout the islands, winter temperatures (November through April) range from lows of mid-60° F at night to afternoon highs in the low- to mid-70s° F. Summer high temperatures (May through October) average between the mid-80s to low-90s F.

It's humid in Great Stirrup Cay, especially in the summer months. Wind speeds are, on average, below 10 knots. In winter months, periods of a day to two of north and northeast winds of about 25 knots may occur.

Rain showers can occur any time of the year, but the rainiest months are May to October. In Great Stirrup Cay, rainfall averages a little more than one inch a month from November to April, and three and a half inches a month from May to October. Rainfall comes mainly in the form of heavy showers or thundershowers, which clear quickly.

Sea surface temperatures normally vary between 74° F in February to 83° F in August.

Hurricane season lasts from June through November, although most hurricanes track south and west of Great Stirrup Cay. The peak months for hurricanes are August and September. The Bahamas have about a one-in-five annual risk of being affected by a hurricane. November 2012's Hurricane Sandy was the latest visitor to Great Stirrup Cay, but it did minimal damage to the island.

Average Temperatures

Average Precipitation



Local Holidays & Festivals


Look for the following local festivals, holidays and events taking place in Great Stirrup Cay in 2017:

Since this is NCL's own island, and they set the rules, there's no guarantee that any of the following holidays will be celebrated on Great Stirrup Cay during your visit. If they're not, you may want to personally organize a toast to the holiday and create your own celebrations.

  • New Year's Day, Sunday, January 1. National holiday celebrated with dances and festivals. Because New Year's Day falls on a Sunday, the holiday is observed on Monday, January 2.

  • Majority Rule Day, Tuesday, January 10. A national holiday celebrating the date when the Bahamas achieved self governance through democracy in 1967.

  • Good Friday, Friday, April 14. A public holiday.

  • Easter Monday, Monday, April 17. A public holiday.

  • Labour Day, Friday, June 2. A public holiday that celebrates the contributions of workers, and in the Bahamas is named after Randol Fawkes.

  • Whit Monday, June 5. This holiday is celebrated the day after Pentecost, a movable feast in the Christian calendar.

  • Stamps
  • Independence Day, Monday, July 10. A national public holiday that commemorates the independence of the Bahamas from the British that took place on July 10, 1973.

  • Emancipation Day/August Monday, Monday, August 7. A national public holiday that commemorates the official abolition of slavery in 1838. Look for a Junkanoo, a traditional African street parade of music, dance, and art held in Nassau.

  • Discovery Day/ National Heroes Day/ Columbus Day, Monday, October 9. A national holiday that commemorates the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus.

  • Christmas, Monday, December 25. A public and religious holiday celebrating the birth of Christ.

  • Boxing Day, Tuesday, December 26. A public holiday.

  • Junkanoo
  • Junkanoo, Tuesday, December 26. The Bahamas' Christmas celebration, with party-goers dressed in masquerade costumes parading in the streets in celebration of their West African and slave heritage.

Cruise Port Schedules


Sun Bathers on beach
© Norwegian Cruise Line

Great Stirrup Cay is a very popular port for cruise ships making 3-, 4- and 7-day cruises to the Bahamas from Florida ports as well as from Charleston, Baltimore and New York.

As a general rule, ships arrive at the island's tender anchorage between 8:00 am and 9:00 am, and depart between 4:00 pm and 5:00 pm. In 2017, cruise ship passengers will spend, on average, aroundf 8¾ hours on the island.

In 2017, Great Stirrup Cay is slated to host 421,800 passengers sailing on 165 ships. See our Great Stirrup Cay Cruise Ship Schedule - 2017 for further information .


Cruise Lines Making Port



The following cruise lines will make port in Great Stirrup Cay in 2017:

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NCL
Oceania Cruises
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