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Island getaway: Desert islands redefined

Jonathan Thompson boards Navigator of the Seas (following its $115million“amplification”) in Miami for the first sailing to Royal Caribbean’s much-lauded private island in the Bahamas, Perfect Day at CocoCay

Desert islands have come along way in the 300 years since Robinson Crusoe was published. Until a generation or two ago, Daniel Defoe’s seminal novel was the benchmark for any and all remote islets and atolls: empty beaches, swaying palm trees and nothing to do except lie on the sand, float in the waves and soak up the sun. That benchmark has been rising steadily for the past 50 years, with demands for luxury, comfort and excitement upping the ante, even in utopia’s most distant corners. Now, Royal Caribbean has taken that criteria and blown it out of the water. Its latest addition to the world of paradise enclaves can be considered a bona fide game-changer. Even the prefix of the company’s new private island in the Bahamas sets the bar high: “Perfect Day”. And all of those I spoke to aboard the first official sailing agreed that it more than lives up to the hype. At a mind-boggling cost of $250 million, Perfect Day at CocoCay (pronounced “key”, much to the chagrin of cadence lovers) should be something special, and it is: a water park, beach resort, including the only new overwater cabanas, which open this month, and adventure sports rolled into one colourful, tropical whole. It’s a record-breaker, too. Here, 250km off the Florida coast, you’ll find the tallest water slide in North America, the Caribbean’s largest freshwater pool and the region’s largest wave pool.

Make no mistake, this is something very, very special. The groundbreaking attraction took four years to design and build, with materials painstakingly shipped over from the US, and more than 350 permanent employees living and working on the 125-acre atoll. And, according to Royal Caribbean, this is just the first of many. “CocoCay was the ideal setting for the first Perfect Day island,” says Claudia Diaz-Gonzalez, director of private destination development, who joined us on the inaugural cruise. “It’s just a flawless backdrop with these beautiful Bahamian waters and incredible white-sand beaches It was the perfect opportunity to add an incredible new experience for our guests.” Royal Caribbean has taken that immaculate Caribbean canvas and created a picture perfect retreat on it, with the island split into a number of zones, loosely falling under two umbrellas: “chill” and “thrill”. It’s the latter that will attract the most attention, with 13 enormous water slides including the monstrous Daredevil’s Peak at a soaring 41 metres. This stretch of the Caribbean, including CocoCay and the Berry Islands, were at the heart of pirating in the 17th and 18th centuries, and rumours persist of buried treasure here. If early signs are anything to go by, Royal Caribbean appears to have struck gold above ground, too.

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The great innovators: your guide to selling Royal Caribbean cruise holidays. Find out more about the Royal Caribbean customer; its private island Perfect Day at CocoCay, and Club Royal; and its agent rewards scheme. Click here to read the magazine in full.

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