Perhaps the most famous occupant of Great Stirrup Cay -- located in the Bahamas' Berry Island chain, 130 nautical miles due east of Fort Lauderdale -- was Captain Bertram of the British Navy. But Native Americans, pirates, and members of the Spanish and American armed forces have also inhabited the cay throughout its history.
Norwegian Cruise Line purchased the 250-acre island in 1977 and has invested in several significant updates throughout the years. More recently the island has undergone a major makeover. Its restaurants, bars, cabanas and beaches have all been revamped and enlarged, with an investment of more than $1 million dedicated just to new landscaping. Other additions include an underwater sculpture garden for snorkelers, as well as a top-notch medical center. Thanks to the introduction of new (and plentiful) palm trees, there's now lots more natural shade from the Bahamian sun, a godsend in the height of summer.
More is in the pipeline. Both a zipline and upscale lagoon area (for passengers staying in the exclusive Haven cabins) are still in construction and should be completed by the end of 2018.
Despite the construction work, it's still possible to find solitude on the island. In fact, for much of the day, you might find palm-fringed bay Fiesta Beach practically to yourselves. The sun, the food, the vibe (lots of rum cocktails are served) and the snorkeling make this a perfect day off the ship.
There are plans to install lockers on the island, but for the moment it's best to leave valuables on the ship. That being said, the island has a local straw market, so if you like shopping then be sure to bring some cash; small denominations work best.
To avoid nasty cuts and scrapes underfoot, it's also worth packing some water shoes in your luggage. Great Stirrup Cay is famed for its coral and while it's pretty to look at if you go swimming or snorkeling, it's dangerous to stand on.
While more natural shade is now present thanks to the planting of extra palm trees, there are also clamshell sunshades available to rent. These can be purchased with your room key, which will also be needed to buy drinks and shore excursions during your stay on the island.
Local currency is the Bahamian dollar, but vendors at the straw market will accept U.S dollars. (The exchange rate is typically 1 to 1.) It's important to note that credit cards won't be accepted on the island and there are no ATMs.
The country's national language is English. A local, Bahamian dialect does exist, but you're unlikely to hear it on Great Stirrup.
The Berried Treasures Bazaar is a colorful straw market located close to the tender dock. It sells local trinkets and souvenirs -- handwoven straw bags, jewelery, textiles, etc. -- but you'll need small denominations of cash (U.S or Bahamian dollars) for purchases. Although attractive, none of the offerings are particularly cheap.