With the completion of Royal Caribbean Cruises' $7 million private island CocoCay, the cruise line has taken the out-island concept from beach experience closer to a full-scale Caribbean port-of-call experience.

Located halfway between Freeport and Nassau in the Bahamas Berry Island chain, CocoCay features watersports, shopping and entertainment. Since the island is small, there is no sightseeing excursion.

Nine-Foot Bronze Mermaid and CocoCoins

Upon entering the newly-created lagoon aboard specially built double-decker tenders, passengers are greeted by a nine-foot bronze mermaid, only the second mermaid in the world to grace the entrance of a port, according to Rod McLeod, Executive Vice President of Sales.

Once the tenders have docked, passengers can visit the "CocoCay Boathouse and Mercantile Company", a welcoming center and shop where they can find "a special memento of a day in paradise."

There are also a number of bars: in the ''Wacky Seagull" bar, passengers will meet human size brass birds. (A statement from the cruise company warns that passengers should not be surprised if the bartender flies away.) The "Sea View Cafe" promises a view of the bay from an observation bar. A barbecue is served on the ground floor where a Bahamian calypso band entertains. "Bahama Jack's Cafe" and "Coconut Willie's" also help to quench any passenger's thirst or appetite.

Moreover, CocoCay has its own "currency." So­ called "CocoCoins" can be exchanged for dollars so passengers can "purchase drinks on the island or take home a souvenir."

A variety of watersports are also offered. Special guided tours are offered to a sunken arrplane, underwater caves and the "Mermaid of CocoCay tunnel." Removal of rock formations are also said to have resulted in higher underwater visibility and better diving conditions. Special scavenger hunts and sand castle building contests are offered for children.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines' Nordic Empress and Admiral Cruises' Emerald Seas call at Cococay during their three- and four-night cruises from Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Admiral Cruises' Azure Seas will be calling at CocoCay starting in May.