Since it was first announced in 2017, the new Carnival-exclusive port of Celebration Key has gained a lot of interest. Located on the south side of Grand Bahama Island, this new destination will provide an alternative to the ports of Nassau and Freeport, which have increasingly fallen out of favor with passengers. Carnival will spend over $500 million to build up their first-ever private port experience. If you’ve sailing on certain other cruise lines, you might find things look a little similar.
Carnival has divided Celebration Key into five different “portals.” While the “portal” name is clunky, it’s basically the same principle of “zones” they use on their Excel-class ships, or what Royal Caribbean calls “neighborhoods.”
Welcome Portal at Celebration Key
You’ll experience the Welcome Portal when you first arrive at the island. A large pier will allow up to two of Carnival’s largest ships to dock one time. Guests can easily walk on and off the ship, no more tendering like Carnival’s other private islands, Half Moon Cay and Princess Cay.
Guests will be greeted with lively music and vibrant colors as they walk towards Celebration Key. A giant sandcastle stands at the center, evoking the feeling of fun the minute guests set eyes on it.
Family-friendly Portal at Celebration Key
Carnival is a family-friendly cruise line, and because of that, they have a whole portal dedicated to family fun. Here, guests will find the largest freshwater lagoon in the Caribbean. Kids can also enjoy a splash pad with a shallow pool or try the racing waterslides and sports courts. For those who prefer the ocean, there’s a long strip of white sand beach for families to play in.
The area will have plenty of free seating, but guests can also rent cabanas. They’ll have some premium options with personal slides into the lagoon as well as floating cabanas.
The area will also have restaurants and bars throughout the space, although Carnival has not revealed if these will be included or cost extra.
Adult-friendly Portal at Celebration Key
Carnival will also have an area dedicated to guests who want child-free relaxation. This area is centered around the large freshwater pool where guests can visit the large swim up bar where a live DJ will keep the party going all day. For guests who want a more chill experience, they can visit the adult-only white sand beaches and relax in the loungers or the warm Caribbean waters.
The area will also have private cabanas available to rent. It’ll have several dining venues, including a sit-down restaurant serving Bahamian flavors.
The Private Club Portal at Celebration Key
Almost every cruise line now offers a “private” experience for guests looking to shell out extra money for a more luxurious experience. Carnival will do the same with the adult-only Private Club Portal.
The Private Club won’t have the party vibe of the Adult-friendly Portal but instead will have a more relaxing experience. Guests who book this area will have access to an infinity pool, plush loungers, and a dedicated section of the beach with elevated dining options.
The Retail Portal at Celebration Key
For guests who like shopping, Celebration Key will have a dedicated retail portal. Here, guests will find local crafts, duty-free shops, as well as several food and beverage options serving Bahamian flavors.
Celebration Key will debut in July 2025
Celebration Key will open to its first guests in July 2025. It’s already a featured destination on many upcoming Carnival cruises, with more than 500 cruise itineraries on 18 Carnival ships stopping at this new port. Based on social media, Carnival fans are really excited about this new development.
Carnival has said that they have future expansion plans for Celebration Key, which include a waterpark and zip line course.
Carnival will provide more details about Celebration Key in the future. We still don’t know what food will be included here and if Carnival plans to allow their Cheers drink package to work at the port (Royal Caribbean and Norwegian both allow their drink packages to work at their private island, while so far Carnival does not).
Our take: Carnival’s alternative to Perfect Day at CocoCay
It’s hard to talk about Carnival’s Celebration Key without talking about Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day at CocoCay, the clear competition. Royal Caribbean’s multi-million dollar renovation and rebranding of their private island has been wildly successful, and it’s clear Carnival is trying to do the same thing.
This port feels very much like Royal Caribbean’s version, from the colorful shaded walkway to the port to the large slide tower that provides the port’s visual identity. Like Perfect Day, it also has a massive freshwater lagoon (according to Carnival, it’s bigger than Royal Caribbean’s, which used to be the largest in the Caribbean). The only thing that’s missing is a hot air balloon. One nice thing about Celebration Key there is one adult-only area that seems to be free. Royal Caribbean’s adult-only area debuted this month, and they charge guests $35 – $95 to access it.
While this port is a great alternative to Nassau and Freeport, we hope Carnival doesn’t start to move away from the natural beauty at its other private island stops, Half Moon Cay and Princess Cay. Celebration Key looks like it’ll feel more like a theme park or massive resort, which is fine for some people, but others prefer the more authentic beauty of the other two stops.
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