In 1996, Carnival Cruise Line purchased Half Moon Cay, also known as Little San Salvador Island, for $6 million. This 2,400-acre paradise is located 100 miles southeast of Nassau, Bahamas, and is used as port stops by Carnival Cruise Line and Holland America Line.
To ensure a fun-filled and memorable trip to Half Moon Cay, we’ve gathered 14 tips for your next Carnival or Holland America cruise.
In this article:
- 1. Get off the ship early
- 2. Head straight to the BBQ area
- 3. Rent a cabana
- 4. Visit the beach
- 5. Try out Captain Morgan’s ship bar
- 6. Book your shore excursion early
- 7. Trek the nature trail
- 8. Ride the tram
- 9. Check out the horses
- 10. Drink packages don’t work on land
- 11. Lather up
- 12. Take the kids to the play area
- 13. Take many pictures
- 14. Return to the ship one hour before last call
1. Get off the ship early
Getting off the ship early is important, especially if two ships are docked in a port. Note that there are approximately 4,000 people on the island, and you might have a low chance of getting beach chairs.
2. Head straight to the BBQ area
Head to the complimentary barbecue at 11:30 as early as possible to avoid a long line at each serving station. You can see the BBQ menu here.
Alternatively, if you don’t want barbecue, there’s a newly opened for-fee venue on the island called Lobster Shack.
3. Rent a cabana
Booking an island cabana is an excellent idea if you want to stay out of the sun and enjoy a luxurious experience on Half Moon Cay.
4. Visit the beach
It gets very crowded if you grab the first beach chairs after getting off the tenders. The beach is the shape of a horseshoe, so you can walk as far as you’d like while keeping everyone in sight.
5. Try out Captain Morgan’s ship bar
Many people don’t realize Captain Morgan’s pirate ship has a bar. If you visit Half Moon Cay on a Holland America ship, you might even catch the HALcats band playing there.
6. Book your shore excursion early
They do sell out early! If you have your eye on a clamshell, book that early too.
7. Trek the nature trail
Walking the nature trails is educational, as you will see signs describing the flora and fauna along the way. Be sure to wear your FitBit or smartwatch to record those steps!
8. Ride the tram
Many visitors to Half Moon Cay don’t realize there is a free tram that takes you from the visitor’s center down to the barbecue lunch. If you have a difficult time walking, the tram is a timesaver!
9. Check out the horses
Even if you didn’t book a horseback riding excursion, you may grab the tram and head over to the horse riding area. You can watch the horses go into the ocean close-up!
10. Drink packages don’t work on land
If you have a beverage package on the ship, it doesn’t apply to Half Moon Cay. You will have to pay per drink. However, if you’re sailing with Holland America Line, they will offer a drink package for $25 (plus gratuities per drink) for up to 15 drinks while on the island.
11. Lather up
Bring your sunscreen and wear plenty of it, as Half Moon Cay can also give you a memory you’ll want to forget: sunburn.
12. Take the kids to the play area
Many people don’t know there is a mini water park on Half Moon Cay and a playground with swings. Get there early!
13. Take many pictures
Even though there isn’t much cell service on the island, you’ll want to take photos of this place. Half Moon Cay’s main beach could be one of the most photographed beaches in the Bahamas.
14. Return to the ship one hour before last call
While you might want to stay on Half Moon Cay as long as possible, consider leaving one hour before the last call on the tenders. The island is uninhabited primarily when ships aren’t anchored offshore.
Watch this Half Moon Cay Tour (2019)
Photo: Holland America Line