A day on Half Moon Cay

A day on Half Moon Cay

The island state of the Bahamas has more than 700 islands of different sizes. One of the islands is Little San Salvador Island, which is no more than 9,7 square kilometers in size. The island is located east of Andros halfway between Eleuthera and Cat Island.

San Salvador Island became Half Moon Cay

The cruise company Holland America Line bought the small, then uninhabited coral island in 1996 for six million US dollars. The company subsequently developed San Salvador Island into a private island for cruise guests and gave it the name “Half Moon Cay”. The Holland America Line is one of the Carnival Group's premium cruise brands. San Salvador Island is now owned by Carnival Corporation & plc and serves as a daily destination for all Carnival group ships.

Half Moon Cay - pure leisure pleasure

Half Moon Cay - pure leisure pleasure

Half Moon Cay – the first impression

A cruise on the MS Koningsdam, one of the younger ships of the Holland America Line, takes us to Half Moon Cay. Together with the MS Koningsdam, the Holland America Line's Nieuw Amsterdam, which went into service in 2009, is anchored off Half Moon Cay. From the observation deck of the Koningsdam we look at our destination for the day and some of the neighboring islands.

Half Moon Cay with lagoon

Half Moon Cay with lagoon 

Before us lies flat land with low, deciduous trees and a wide strip of white coral sand. The wide Bonefish Lagoon opens up behind it. A few rocks jut out of the lagoon and jet skis plow across the water, as Half Moon Cay is mostly about doing nothing or doing water sports.

Behind the lagoon the land continues; there the terrain rises slightly. The buildings of the central reception area were well integrated into the landscape. A later tour will reveal the purpose of each building. What the guest doesn't see from the ship: Only a small part of the island is used for tourist purposes, the rest is protected. 

A day in paradise

For today, the shipping company is promising the guests of both ships a “day in paradise”. When we go ashore, we will see whether the promise is fulfilled and what it feels like to use the “paradise” at the same time together with an estimated 4.500 other day guests.

A pier was not built. To get to land, guests use the tender boats provided. As expected, the tendering proceeded quickly and professionally. The guests of the Koningsdam are transported in large tender boats stationed on the island. The Nieuw Amsterdam, on the other hand, takes its guests to the island in its lifeboats.

Half Moon Cay - tender boat

After a short journey, a narrow, winding canal leads into a small sheltered harbor. The promised paradise is adjacent to the jetty. Before the day guest can experience the blessings of the Carnival resort, they have to pass through a sweeping archway. Its inscription reads Fort San Salvador. A large-format map informs us about the locations of the individual attractions.

Half Moon Cay - harbor

Half Moon Cay - Fort San Salvador

What to do in paradise?

If we wanted we could go to a bar. The bars are already busy in the morning! They have catchy names such as “Rumrunners Bar”, “I Wish, I Could Stay Here Forever Bar”, “Bell Bar” or “Captain Morgan On the Rocks Island Bar”. – By the way: Captain Henry Morgan, the pirate and namesake of a world-famous rum brand, was a bad fellow and a nuisance in the prime of his career. Together with his robber bride and his cronies, he robbed many merchant ships and plundered cities in the Caribbean. It is said that the gang chose to hide out on one of the Bahamas islands. Where, no one knows. Captain Morgan later climbed the career ladder. He held the post of Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica when his pirate exploits were forgotten.

Half Moon Cay - Bell Bar

Half Moon Cay - I wish I could stay here forever Bar

Half Moon Cay - Captain Morgan's Bar

Half Moon Cay - Ocean View from Captain Morgan's Bar 

We see an “authentic marketplace” with well-tempered souvenir shops, a hairdresser who gives the ladies and gentlemen travelers Rasta braids, a children’s playground and a sports center. All of these facilities make wishes come true for a fee.

The “Bahamian Church” fulfills all sorts of special wishes for the romantic ship travelers; be it a wedding ceremony or the renewal of wedding vows. For money every spiritual desire is realized.

Half Moon Cay - Bahamian Church

Half Moon Cay - Tower of the Bahamian Church


There is a lot on offer for the sporty guests. If you want, you can snorkel in the “Snorkel Arena” and marvel at the underwater world of corals and colorful fish together with other guests and rented snorkeling equipment.

Half Moon Cay - Boats are available for diving trips

 The “Sea-Doo Adventure” offers the already mentioned rapid rides through the lagoon. If you want to discover the landscape by kayak, start your “Kayak Adventure” in the 566 hectare Bonefish Lagoon. And in the “Water Sports Centers” you can rent Sunfish sailboats, Hobie catamarans, water bikes and the aforementioned jet skis.

Half Moon Cay - Kayaks

Half Moon Cay - Watersports Center 

Private beach cabanas are apparently also in demand. From simple beach houses to elegant accommodation, there are different houses on offer for those guests who don't want to be satisfied with a simple lounger on the beach. The prices seem almost ridiculous to us, especially for the higher quality classes. It seems that as soon as you leave the premium ship, there is a demand for such houses.

For us simple people, a wonderful beach, a simple, free (!) beach lounger, a shady location for the cot and the wonderfully warm and crystal clear sea are enough.

Half Moon Cay - Beach Life

Half Moon Cay - Beach Life 

Your physical well-being is also taken care of

As far as your physical well-being is concerned, precautions are of course taken. At lunchtime, guests consume simple meals such as hamburgers, hot dogs and tropical salads in the Food Pavilion at no additional cost. The ship's galleys prepare the food on board and bring it ashore for consumption.

Half Moon Cay - Food Pavilion

Half Moon Cay - Food Pavilion

Half Moon Cay - Food Pavilion Crew

Half Moon Cay - Food Pavilion Crew 

If you like something more elaborate, visit the Lobster Shack. Freshly prepared lobster is served to guests at the beach hut for an additional charge.

Half Moon Cay - Lobster ShackHalf Moon Cay - Lobster Shack

Conclusion of our day on Half Moon Cay

First things first: Half Moon Cay can easily accommodate 4.500 guests from two cruise ships. Despite the limited usable area, a double ship call does not give the impression that the island is overcrowded.

Half Moon Cay

Half Moon Cay

Beach lovers in particular have no reason to complain about staying on Carnival's private island. We also enjoyed a few hours of sunshine on the extensive beach. The sand is so fine-grained that it could be used in egg timers. The sun shines in abundance, there are enough places in the shade and the sea is wonderfully warm and flat.

Food and drink are available in abundance. There are enough sports options and many things are also thought of. What we find remarkable are the special, sandy wheelchairs with extra-wide rubber tires for ship guests with mobility restrictions. After leaving the island, you have the opportunity to wash the sand off your feet on the tender boats.

However, we deplore the limitations associated with such private islands. We appreciate being able to freely decide what and where we do things at the destinations we visit. That's why, despite all the other advantages the island offers, we feel less attracted to Half Moon Cay than to other places.

There are two negative things to note about this island: Firstly, we think of the Stingray Adventure. Large stingrays are wonderful creatures; many people apparently love them. – In other Caribbean destinations we know, the wild fish are attracted by feeding them so that visitors can see and touch them. On Half Moon Cay, however, the rays are kept penned in a fenced-off pool measuring approximately 20 by 40 meters. This does not correspond to our ideas about animal protection. This is not what the paid “Stingray Encounter” should look like.

Half Moon Cay - Stingray Adventure

Half Moon Cay - Stingray Adventure

Half Moon Cay - Stingray Adventure - Visitor group

Half Moon Cay - Stingray Adventure - Visitor group 

On the other hand, we question the horseback riding trips. It seems to be common practice on Half Moon Cay to drive horses up to their necks into the sea water with their often overweight riders, regardless of the fact that horses are land, not water, animals. In general, sea water provides an effective massage for the horse's legs. But the water shouldn't reach up to your neck.

Apparently the day in paradise only applies to humans, not to animals!

Update February 2024

My Shore Excursions Bahamas