It seems that each cruise line must build or purchase their own island and version of tropical paradise.  Patty and I experienced Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas that’s owned by the Holland-America Line.  For more information, please access www.arnoldheller.org/social-studies/images-of-the-eastern-Caribbean.html. 

Norwegian Cruise Lines teamed with Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville Holdings to transform an island (located fifteen minutes off the coast) into a 55-acre private port attraction.  Over a five-year period, more than 10,000 mangroves and 4,000 palms were planted by NCL. 

I perceive Harvest Cay as a blend of Margaritaville island concept, an impressive ecological vision, and a sincere attempt to preserve the Afro-Caribbean culture of the Garifuna people who greet visiting cruise ship passengers with native songs.

More than a million cubic meters of sea bottom were dredged to accommodate vessels the size of the Breakaway that hold 4,000 passengers.  My estimate of total passengers sharing our cruise was about 3,500. 

Visitors disembarking will find a 136-foot-tall lighthouse that anchors two ziplines.

A low canopy protects passengers during the pier-walk to the entrance.  A view of the mangroves parallels the walkway and delights visitors with their thickness.

A view of the tender dock apparently for non-cruise ship visitors accessing the island.  All pass through the grand Harvest Cay entrance.

The main sign directs visitors to Harvest Cay attractions.

The Manatee Bar is a walk-up kiosk for very over-priced food and drinks, especially water.  A mural is painted on the back side of the kiosk and was the only reference to the Margaritaville brand that I spotted.

Buffet’s beer brand is Landshark and the name on a tropical-themed, two-story bar and grill that is Harvest Cay’s main food and drinking emporium.  The Landshark brand is more evident than the Margaritaville brand.

On the island, a nature center displays boa constrictors, scarlet macaws and toucans, the national bird of Belize.  Two signs display Harvest Cay environmental programs that address manatee and whale preservation concerns.

A 15,000 square foot pool invites visitors to enjoy its cool waters. 

Harvest Cay’s most visible feature, a 136-foot-tall lighthouse-like-structure, is called the Flighthouse.  Ziplines emanate from it and go off in two directions.  The 1,300 foot ‘Superman’ line allows riders to fly prone, swooping low of the beach like a jet coming in for a landing at the airport.  

2,500 blue loungers are provided for beach-goers.  A fierce breeze hammered the beach the morning of our visit – see yellow flag warning – and caused umbrellas to remain closed.  When a light shower fell for a few minutes, I opened our umbrella to stay dry.  Every other umbrella soon opened to fend off the rain drops and remained open after the shower stopped and the wind weakened.

At two o’clock, the cruise ship sounded its horn and visitors began leaving beach and pool to return to our vessel.

The canopy protects passengers from the midday sun as they return to the ship.

Next stop: Costa Maya, Mexico – another architect’s vision that’s keeping it pretty real.