Today the Caribbean Princess stopped at Princess Cays, a private beach for guests of Princess Cruises. It is located on the southern end of Eleutheria Island in the Bahamas, near Bannerman Town.
Although many passengers (including myself at first) pronounced “cays” like “kays,” according to Wikipedia and the online dictionary of Merriam-Webster, the word is more correctly pronounced “keys” as in the Florida Keys and Key West. A cay is a small island, often part of a cluster of islands. Princess Cays is actually a small group of islands connected to Eleutheria Island by a short bridge “to the mainland.”
Unlike other cruise ship ports, where passengers generally must pay extra for food, beach chairs and cabanas, these amenities are provided at Princess Cays (although you can pay extra to reserve a cabana if you wish, as well as rent various water sports equipment). There is no cruise ship pier, so the ship was anchored a good distance away and passengers were “tendered” to and from the beach aboard a fleet of reasonably comfortable lifeboats.
We enjoyed a lazy day at the beach. The weather was a bit threatening, and the water slightly cool, so I was the only one in our party of four to actually swim out any distance. Although it took a minute to adjust to the water, I eventually swam out about 100 yards. The water was a beautiful clear blue, and the sand was soft (although not quite as smooth as the pink sands of Bermuda). Many of my fellow passengers went snorkeling, and I could see some extensive coral reefs underneath where I was swimming.
After a generous informal buffet lunch on the beach, I walked around the various vendor stands to shop for souvenirs. I didn’t find anything worth buying inside the Princess Cays compound, so I took a short stroll outside of the main entrance gate to look at the booths set up by local artisans. Unfortunately, there seemed to be very little different to choose from outside the gates, although the vendors did seem to be more willing to haggle on price.
So even though we returned to the ship sans curios, we had some pleasant memories of a relaxing day. There was a bit of a wait for the tender ship back to the ship, as the storm clouds grew more threatening in the afternoon. But we made it back to the ship before the rain became a downpour.