Half Moon Cay (officially Little San Salvador Island, sized 2400 acres / 9,7 km2) is located approx 10 mi / 16 km southeast of Nassau, and halfway between the Bahamian islands Cat and Eleuthera. This is a privately-owned island, one of the assets of Holland America Line (subsidiary company and brand of Carnival Corporation). Half Moon Cay is an exclusive port of call for all Holland America and Carnival cruise liners operating in the Caribbean. Prior to Holland America, the island was owned by NCL-Norwegian Cruise Line.
In late-September 2019, Carnival Corporation signed an agreement with the Bahamian government to build two new cruise ports - one on Grand Bahama Island (USD 100+ million) and one on Little San Salvador Island / Half Moon Cay (USD 90+ million). Both Bahamian port development projects (budgeted USD 190+ million) could be started by mid-2020. Their design plans will exceed USCG guidelines for withstanding Category 5 hurricanes and both will be able to handle world's largest passenger liners. On Half Moon Cay will be constructed a new pier/dock.
Carnival private island Half Moon Cay (Bahamas)
Half Moon Cay is located around 10 miles (16 km) southeast of Nassau. HAL purchased the island for a price of US$6 million in December 1996. It has since developed 200,000 m2 (50 acres) of the 9.7 km2 (2,400-acre) island, with the stated goal of keeping as much habitat as possible. Half Moon Cay is also a nesting area for waterfowl. It does not have deep water docking that requires the use of tenders for cruise passengers to embark and disembark.
Holland America (HAL) bought the island in December 1996 for USD 6 million. Subsequently, the island property was developed with some 50 acres (200,000 m2, or about 2% of the island) of infrastructure and facilities. Carnival Corporation invested USD 15 million in the development project. Daily operations are handled by around 100 employees (residents from the nearby islands). This private island doesn't have deepwater dock, so ships are required to anchor and transport their passengers to the shore via tender boats.
In November 2017, HAL celebrated the island's 20th Anniversary.
Half Moon Cay island refurbishment
In summer 2016, the island underwent refurbishment, after which new amenities were introduced.
- Among the upgrades were new sailboats, catamarans, Water Trikes, Jet Skis (watercraft),
- All beach-side cabanas and villas were renovated (new painting and furnishings).
- Grand Cabana's decor was changed.
- 3 more beach drink locations were added.
- "Captain Morgan on the Rocks" bar's furniture was replaced.
- The operated on the island horseback riding tours were boosted with 14 more horses and 2 more grazing pastures.
- The Ranch's changing rooms were renovated.
- The island’s Welcome Center received new furniture.
Half Moon Cay cruise terminal
Currently, cruise ships to Half Moon Cay anchor at sea (in the bay) and transport/ferry their passengers ashore via ship's tender boats. In early-August 2019, HAL Properties Ltd (subsidiary of Carnival Corporation) announced plans to add a docking pier at Half Moon Cay to allow passengers direct disembarkation ashore. With the new pier project (budgeted ~USD 80 million) cruisers will access the island easier and quicker (allowing more ashore time) and also stormy weather will not be an issue anymore.
Carnival's Half Moon island has a 2,5 ml / 4 km long beach. Island's infrastructure includes:
- Welcome Center - has Information Booth, Shore Excursions Booth, Ice Cream Parlor, Rumrunners Bar, restrooms.
- Bahamian Church (cruise weddings), Straw Market (gift shop)
- post office, first aid station, Food Pavilion (complimentary restaurant with open-air seating; burgers, hot dogs, salads, fresh fruit), three Water Sports centers (water toys rentals)
- Lookout Bar, Bell Bar, "I Wish I Could Stay Here Forever" Bar
- Sports Center, Half Moon Salon (hair / barber services, manicure / pedicure), Massage cabana (spa treatments)
- Club HAL (Holland America kids complex /complimentary programming)
- Half Moon Lagoon Aqua Park (kids water park with slides and climable sea creatures)
- tram, tender pier.
- In mid-November 2016, Holland America unveiled a new restaurant on Half Moon Cay, with a menu showcasing one dish: lobster. The new "Lobster Shack" is offered in addition to the island's usual complimentary barbeque. It serves up grilled spiny lobster with rice and Caribbean coconut beans and one of two salsas (pineapple or sofrito). While the cruise ship is docked, its cooks come ashore to operate the venue (open between 11 am - 2 pm) following a recipe developed in part with the line's partner Master Chef Rudi Sodamin. Lunch costs USD 20 per person. The new restaurant's inauguration was on Nov 11, during the MS Koningsdam's inaugural cruise. The venue is casual, with a Tiki hut-style vibe and "no shoes, no shirt" dress code. It's located on the beach, next to the "I Wish I Could Stay Here Forever" bar.
- Cruises to Half Moon Cay by Carnival Cruise Line ships also offer access to Lobster Shack, but Carnival offers a different menu.
The following map of Half Moon Cay shows all facilities on the island (including Aqua Park, Stingray Adventure, Aqua Trax, 2-story villas and private cabanas locations), as well as all snorkeling areas and watersports centers.
Among the Half Moon Cay's activities are swimming and sunbathing, scuba diving and snorkeling, jet-skiing, deep-sea fishing, parasailing, glass-bottom boating, horseback riding, cycling, nature walks, hiking. Available rentals are for Hobie catamarans, Sunfish sailboats, windsurfing boards, sea kayaks, paddleboats, Aqua Cycle Trikes, Aqua Trax Wave Runners, snorkeling gear. The island also has sports facilities (volleyball-basketball courts), outdoor games (horseshoes shuffleboard), fitness track with outdoor exercise equipment. The island is also a preserve for migratory birds. The most popular Carnival shore excursions offered on Half Moon Cay are:
- TROPICAL KAYAK ADVENTURE ($45 pp / duration 1,25 hours / min age 6 yo) - through Bone Fish Lagoon
- HORSEBACK RIDING BY LAND & SEA ($100 pp / duration 1,25 hours, min age 10 yo)
- STINGRAY ADVENTURE ($30 pp / duration 1 hour / min age 6 yo)
- HALF MOON CAY SNORKEL BY BOAT ($60 pp / duration 1,5 hours / min age 8 yo) - snorkeling gear is provided.
Half Moon Cay tours, shore excursions, hotels
City Tours and Shore Excursions
Next are listed the most popular Carnival Cruise Lines tours on Half Moon Cay, with USD prices per adult:
- watercraft ($70)
- cabana rental ($200)
- horseback ($70)
- bike-hike (40)
- glass-bottom boat ($40)
- deep-sea fishing ($140)
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