Was on Catalina a week ago. One has to tender for about 5 minutes and the boats run all day long. By late morning it gets very crowded particularly where the tender dock is located. Go early or take a left and walk toward the rock jetty for a premium location. Plenty of chairs and umbrellas which appear to be set up by Casa de Campo employees. They will carry chairs where you want them and appreciate a tip. Bar is open all day and the BBQ is phenomenal. Use of nautical equipment is not free.. Everyone gave the day very high marks. If you are in a suite you get priority boarding. Take the camera and plenty of sun screen. JP
I think Catalina Island is one of the nicer of these "private" islands... also used by Costa for many years. If, like myself, you are not too interested in a day at the beach, the stop is unique in that it offers a number of other possibilities. Nearby is Casa de Campo, a world class resort (on the main Island) and a nice shore excursion is offered to visit this large and varied resort. Also, they offer a full day excursion to Santo Domingo, the capital city of the Dominican Republic. After a tender ride to the City of La Romana, on the main Island too, you take a bus ride (about an hour or so) through some fascinating small towns (reminds me of some parts of South America) to Santo Domingo, an historic and fascinating city. (The first mayor was Christopher Columbus' son). Lots of interesting monuments, churches and the like to visit and a refeshing absence of the typical Caribbean Island Tee shirt/basket shops every 10 feet (there are some). A surprisingly good lunch is offered at an elegant hotel and a return to the ship in late afternoon. For those who enjoy this kind of sightseeing and who enjoy mingling in a very different culture, it cannot be beat.
Just another opinion. We thought Catalina Island was awful esp. compared to CoCo Cay. The tender(lifeboat) ride was very rough & poorly attended to by the staff helping us board-one person got a huge bump on his head.. Snorkel area was near sharp rocks all the way off to the side & no flotation belts were available. The vendors were aggresssive & the chair distribution very slow. The beach itself is not very pretty. We are not complainers. In fact, this is the only negative we have ever mentioned from our cruises. If we went again we would do the trip to Altos de Chavon. Folks at our table went there & got some beqatiful art work & had a great day! I know otheres diagree but this is another view.