Half Moon Cay - Compiled Info : Maps, Interesting Facts, Beach/Water activities

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Calgary Canada
244 Posts
Joined Mar 2006
I have compiled some information from various threads that I have printed to take with, for our stop at Half Moon Cay and I thought I will share it with the board as I have learned so much from previous posters.
Its been done hastily, please add more useful info for those of us who want to have the information but does not have a whole lot of time to do the research. Feel free to add and update and report back on current conditions. Hope this will be helpful to others going for the 1st time.

History – “In December 1996, HollandAmerica purchased the island of Little San Salvador from several Bahamian owners for $6 million. The island was uninhabited and with no infrastructure. Construction began shortly after. All mechanical systems such as electrical generators, reverse osmosis water plants, sewer treatment and incineration plants needed to be installed. $16 Million were spend. Due to the topography of the island, the developed areas needed to be raised by 14 feet in order to be above the flood plain. A marina was dredged and constructed in order to allow safe tender operation.

Calf Moon Cay was officially opened as a port of call on December 12, 1997 by Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham. HAL bought the island initially. Then Carnival acquired it when they acquired HAL. Carnival owns it now, but the only time a Carnival ship will visit this island, is when it's not being used by a HAL ship.

The name of the island was changed from Little San Salvador to Half-Moon Cay. Half Moon Cay was named after HollandAmerica's logo, which depicts explorer Henry Hudson's ship, the Half Moon, and also to reflect the island’s spectacular crescent-shaped white sand beach. Henry Hudson’s ship is featured on the HAL logo.

Interesting facts - Half Moon Cay is considered by many to be the most beautiful of the cruise lines private islands. It features more facilities, services and activities than any other cruise line's private island. The island does not have deep water docking, requiring the use of tenders to transport guests to the island’s marina.

Half Moon Cay has 9 miles of beach and a 1700-acre interior lagoon.The island is 9 and a half miles in circumference with an exquisite 2 mile crescent-shaped, beach that fronts on a protected bay leading west to Exuma Sound. The island has stunning aquamarine blue seas, powder white sand beaches and exotic vegetation exemplifying the tropical Caribbean experience.

Map Of Half Moon Cay : http://insightcruises.com/pdf/Half_Moon_Cay.pdf

Map and pictures of the facilities and cabanas :


Picture and Info on HAL website : http://www.hollandamerica.com/cruise-destinations/PortDetail.action?displayPortSelector=true&portCod e=HMC

Website showing which ships will be at HMC : http://cruisett.com/ports.php?PortID=265

On the narrow, sandy strip between the island's south shore, and the interior lagoon, many of the plants are typical coastal species adapted to dealing with salt spray. The island is far from treeless; there is some genuine woodland, known as coppice, on the north shore. On the south shore the vegetation is sandy scrub, with a few thatch palm trees.

This is truly a nature preserve as HollandAmerica takes great strides to maintain the ecosystem of this pristine island. Only 45 acres (2.8 sq miles or 2% ) of the 2,400 acre (9.7 km²) island have been developed, with the goal of maintaining as much habitat as possible for wildlife. The island is a nesting area for waterfowl, including 10,000 sooty terns, noddy terns, 200 pairs of roseate terns, shearwaters and Bahamian pintails.
Little San Salvador is protected, as a Wild Bird Preserve, and its brackish interior lagoon has been designated as an important wetland by the Bahamas National Trust.

Little San Salvador Island (also known as Half Moon Cay), is one of about 700 islands that make up the archipelago of the Bahamas. Less than 100 miles southeast of Nassau, between the southern end Eleuthera and the northern shores of CatIsland and 17 miles from the nearest neighbour. The island's coordinates are 24°33′N, 75°59′W.

After a $225 million facilities improvement initiative, (it sounds like a lot, Can it be that much ? ) new activities were recently added. No one lives there year round, more than 110 Bahamians operate the island. This group is in charge of all of the maintenance of the island, technical areas, landscaping, shore excursions, vessel captains, staff and guides, lifeguards, tram drivers, engineers, mechanics, chef, straw market vendors, police, customs and island managers. The ladies that work the small shopping area, the lifeguards and the general workers live on another island nearby and ferry in.

Amenities - Facilities comprise 3 areas - the Landing and WelcomeCenter, the BahamianVillage and the Tropics Restaurant.

The guests enter the WelcomeCenter upon docking at the marina. Featuring an information booth, restrooms, bar, Bahamian straw market, shops, ice cream shop, first aid/nurse station, air conditioned island shop and tram stop. Also a tiny post office where you can purchase stamps (huge and beautiful), and mail postcards. Send one to yourselves for a souvenir. An open-air market, several bars and beverage stations, sports area and a chapel. The chapel accommodates wedding and renewal of vows ceremonies. The chapel has beautiful views from the front door and straight through to the ship, its a serene place for thought. The non-denominational Bahamian chapel overlooks the sea and gives couples the opportunity to renew their wedding vows in a rustic and tropical setting. The chapel, which seats 20 guests, is constructed in an authentic Bahamian manner with a trussed roof ceiling and exotic wall tapestries complementing the wooden trim accents. A pointed steeple with a bell reflects the traditional Western influence. Champagne is offered following the ceremony and each couple is photographed with the ship in the background.

Well-marked paths lead to the beach, nature trials, water sports center and food service area. All parts of the island are accessible by a tram and hard-surfaced walkways connect each area. A handicapped-accessible 25-passenger tram runs continuously on a separate path between the WelcomeCenter and the Tropics Restaurant and provides an alternative way of getting around. Wheelchairs with umbrellas and balloon tires made for use on the sand are available. Restrooms can be found behind cabana #1 and the another behind cabana #10.

The Tropics Restaurant operates a buffet with 6 lanes for quick service and 5 open-air dining shelters each seating 48 guests, 2 fresh fruit and condiment shelters, restrooms, and a bandstand with island-style steel band. Ribs, fish, burgers, sausage, salads, fruit, corn on the cob, brownies and cookies. Starting at noon, the BBQ luncheon is very popular.

Full service bars are located throughout the island. Two large bars are in the Tropics Restaurant and the WelcomeCenter. The “I Wish I Could Stay Here Forever” beachfront bar is located on the main beach. The Half Moon Saloon, located near the LagoonAquaPark, provides a great view of the ocean and beach. There is also a very quiet bar located on the interior lagoon adjacent to Stingray Cove.

Activities : Guests can enjoy the lounge chairs, shaded rest areas with hammocks, clamshell sunshades for rent, shaded sitting areas, 3 tropical mist stations, a supervised swimming area and a beginners snorkel area. Water Sports centers are located throughout the island, two on the beach and one on the lagoon that rent beach gear and water sport equipment. Activities include beach volleyball, basketball, shuffleboard, horseshoes are located at areas with rest shelters. A variety of water toys are available for rent, including Hobie catamarans, Sunfish sailboats, windsurfing sailboards and kayaks, snorkel gear, floating mats, and those fun aqua bikes. Floating pads offer a relaxing way to enjoy the sun or the cooling “raindrops” from a fountain. A boardwalk leads guests to a large sundeck and the palapa-covered Half Moon Saloon, where, following some refreshments, guests can use a slide to get right back into the water.

On your own –
The best things about Half Moon Cay is it's a perfect beach day. The sand is soft and white, the water is the clearest blue. Most of the shade from the palm trees was gone before noon, that's a good time to headed to the buffet. No lines and a choice of seats-all under a nice shady canopy. There is no plant life or coral on the main beach, it is like a giant pool. So if you just like playing in the water, floating and swimming, you're going to be in heaven. If you want more privacy, then walk on the beach about 10 minutes all the way down past the last of the cabanas, the people are fewer.

Walking trial / Fitness - A network of nature trails with interpretive signs are easily accessible from the marina. Hard-surfaced and sand pathways connecting venues. We walked the entire length of the beach, around past the horse corrals to the point that the way is blocked by rocks. We found a trail over by where the sea planes come in, that took you up to some old ruins. Bridges across dunes for beach access. If you love natural history, birding, etc., then do some hiking. We did walk to the other side (a short walk) I am presuming its towards the Bone Fish Lagoon. Walk the paved trails, the scenery is nice. Many photo ops on the trail a fitness trail with exercise stations, and nature trails for hiking. The walking/running loop is designated from the dining area to the Lookout Bar to the WaterSportsCenter then back to the Dining Pavilion. The distance around the fitness trail is at least a mile, with exercise stations.

For Kids : Half Moon Lagoon, designed especially with kids in mind, is a fun-filled water park, while mom and dad watch them from shore. A full beachside water park for children.
The water park is conveniently located on the shore of Half Moon Cay’s main beach and provides island-themed action and adventure in the sun. Guests of all ages can have fun climbing on the numerous large water “toys” in the shapes of marine life such as whales, octopi, sharks and dolphins. A pirate ship in the aqua park sprays water from its cannons to the delight of children and adults alike. A fully-equipped children's playground is nearby.

Snorkeling on your own - The overall quality of snorkeling is pretty good, mostly due to accessibility, and generally shallow water depth for those not ready for deep water.

Snorkeling past the cabanas - If you are standing on the beach looking out at the ocean, it's to the right and all the way down and just before the rocks.. It's a 15 - 20 minute walk to get there, the scenery is beautiful. We walked past all the cabanas, past the horse stables, all the way to a sign that says : "Dangerous to proceed past this point." It was probably a good mile, but totally worth it. If the ship tenders at one tip of the crescent moon-shaped beach, we had walked to the other tip. We literally had the place to ourselves.

Just about 30-40 yards off shore was a lot of natural coral reef, plenty of fish, with a wonderful clear view of the ship and the whole beach. I had swiped some corn flakes from the breakfast line, and took the unopened plastic bags of corn flakes in the water with us. Once at the coral, I opened up the bags and let a little out at a time and watched the fish swarm!

There is a coral formation about 50 - 100 feet out which is pretty lively with sea life. Around the coral formation which is wide and provides many little nooks to look into. Had a 3 feet Barracuda swim by a few times. Visibility was just okay and was a little rocky due to the closeness to the rock formation. The rock area on the western side is the only place for any real snorkelling. To get to the snorkel-worthy area near the rocks, it requires some swimming into an isolated area of the island and against a usually minor surf. Nothing too much to get to the first coral structure with plenty of sea life located directly out from beach, but it does require some minor swimming and fins. An inflation vest would be helpful to those less familiar with snorkeling in water over your head. The water depth is easy and moderate, but you are far enough away from help that anyone in any distress will not be able to count on passersby for assistance. Be aware of the damage flippers can do to the coral life which is near the surface in some parts - when in shallow water, avoid kicking when your flippers are below your body. It stirs up the sand and makes visibility useless.

On the hike back, we cut up to the horse ride waiting area and hitched a ride back with a tour group heading back towards the main area. The truck driver did not mind us and stopped to drop us off at our cabana.

Snorkeling past the kids section - On the beach if you're facing the ship, go to the left side around the rocks, where the kids section is. There are lots of fish there and it's wonderful. No coral, but lots of fish for snorkling. The water was clear and warm. There were many plain fish and I did see one sea cucumber, some coral and few plants. Be careful as you enter from beach to the left of rocks as it is shallow with some rocks and a mild surf.

Beachfront cabanas for rent - there are 15 beachfront cabanas and one Grand Cabana. The cabanas have air conditioning, misting station, dining table and 4 chairs, lounge chairs, changing room, refrigerator, dry bar, fresh water shower, and sun deck. Optional Butler and Drink packages are also available.

Excursions :
List of HAL excursions and prices : http://www.hollandamerica.com/cruise-destinations/PortDetail.action?displayPortSelector=true&portCod e=HMC

The idyllic Bahamian island offers extraordinary activities, such as its horseback riding and swimming excursion, guided AquaTrax watercraft tour, stingray adventure, bicycle tour of island highlights. Guests can enjoy excursions including catch-and-release deep sea fishing trips, eco tours by glass-bottom boat, kayak trips and parasailing, Eco-Lagoon Tour, Scuba, Sailing (catamarans and sailboats) , Flats Fishing, scuba diving, jet-skiing, and snorkeling. parasailing, glass-bottom boat rides, and nature walks also are available. A variety of water toys are available for rent, including Hobie catamarans, windsurfing sailboards and kayaks. Other activities include snorkeling, scuba diving, interpretive nature and birding walks, rentals of Aqua Bikes, wind surfing boards, Hobie Cats, kayaks and beach floats. “Massage on the Beach” services are available. Professional massage therapists attired in white shorts and T-shirts offer massage services in two air conditioned cabanas on the beach equipped with ceiling fans and massage tables. Shower facilities are also available. Also part of the services is a “Fun in the Sun” beach workout, which includes water aerobics and a beach run/walk. A glass–bottom–boat tour explores the coral reefs and marine life.

Horseback Ride 'n Swim excursion - explore the island's natural beauty on trails that are accessible only by horseback. An unforgettable way to explore the island’s natural beauty and ride a horse while it swims in the ocean. Guests are taken by tram to a corral where they receive a brief orientation before saddling up on these specially trained horses. During the ride, guides will share insight on Bahamian history, people and culture. The trail will lead guests to a deserted beach where they enjoy refreshments and can take an unforgettable swim in the sea with the horses. Winding trails accessible only on horseback, lead to a panoramic vista at one of the highest points in the Bahamas overlooking the breathtaking shores of Half Moon Cay and the surrounding islands. Once back at the corral, horses are “dressed” for swimming in a special pad and halter. Riders then venture into the ocean for the amazing experience of riding a horse while it’s swimming. Changing rooms, lockers and rest room facilities are available.

Stingray Adventure provides an educational encounter with the Southern Stingrays as guests swim or snorkel with these gentle and mysterious creatures. A short tram ride takes guests to the secluded Stingray Cove. The program starts with an informative session from an expert lecturer on the Southern Stingrays and some of the other marine life living in the lagoon. Guests learn about the habits, behavior, feeding and breeding of these fascinating creatures. Under the direction of guides, guests get the chance to interact with the creatures, touching their silky wings and, if they wish, hand feeding the amazing stingrays. Incredible sea life, part of a beautiful 700-acre lagoon. The program will start with an informative session from an expert lecturer on the Southern Stingrays and other marine life living in the lagoon.

The scenic 1.25 hour bicycle tour of Half Moon Cay discovers locations of historic significance. The guide will discuss the history of early inhabitants to present day and will point out flora and fauna and tell of its use for medicinal purposes as used by the locals. Guests will also visit lovely Bone Fish Lagoon, a 700 acre, ocean fed lagoon. This excursion is the only opportunity for guests to see the technical areas of the island, including learning how sea water is desalinated and electricity generated.

We did the Eco Lagoon Tour. We stayed in the Lagoon most of the time and slowly looked at sea life on the bottom. We had great guides who told us about everything we saw. We then had a brief trip out to a coral reef. We enjoyed this excursion.

The Personal Watercraft Adventure allows guests a thrilling way to experience Half Moon Cay from the natural inner saltwater lagoon aboard a personal watercraft. The guided tour takes guests along the island’s picturesque shoreline, navigating around the natural reef formations, inlets, islands and sand spits, with interesting stops at the tidal outlet, the Indian village, IguanaIsland and the Stingray Cove.

Wave Runner tour will take guests along the island's picturesque shoreline, navigating around natural reef locations and stopping at a sandy beach for refreshments and a discussion of the region's rich history and culture. The tour will continue to an active reef where guests can swim with and feed schools of beautiful tropical fish. “
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Thanks, great information
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Thank you so much for posting all this very helpful info! I am heading to Half Moon Cay in January on HAL and was curious about it... and I am glad to see the info you posted is current and up-to-date. Very much appreciated!!
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Originally posted by lkayb717
since this is a private island - do you use your sail & sign card instead of cash or credit cards?
we were just there...there are some shops run by locals that do not accept sign and sail...the main gift shop is run my HAL/CARNIVAL, and they will take your sign and sail on purchases.
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Redsfan, was there a place at Halfmoon Cay that does hairbraiding??
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Originally posted by the4things
Redsfan, was there a place at Halfmoon Cay that does hairbraiding??

My answer would have to be "sometimes". I've been there when there was a hair braider set up in one of the stalls in the entry village, and another time when there wasn't. I've only been there with HAL; not sure what's in the village on Carnival days.
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Originally posted by the4things
Redsfan, was there a place at Halfmoon Cay that does hairbraiding??
yes, in the shop village across from the gift shop there were a group of vendors selling t's, etc, and across from there are a couple of ladies that do the braiding...for what it is worth we had our 9 year old's hair braided there (about $3/braid) and were not entirely happy with them. We were in Grant Turk the next day and found a fantastic lady on the beach who took those beads out and redid her hair for only $10...the styling was much better as well. The good thing is security is very protective about vendors harassing travelers in G.Turk so you go to them, not vice versa. I would NOT do braiding from someone in Nassau.
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going there soon (5/6/2011) and I appreciate the list you have compiled .... missed this 3 times on previous cruise.
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Long Island
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heading there on 5/6/2011 with my daughter and her fiance. Missed this it on previous cruises. Shall make sure to see it this time.
Thanks a lot.
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Great info! That's exactly what I was looking for, we are there on May 15, 2011 and doing the horseback ride, but was also looking for what to do there afterwards! Thanks
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Wonderful information! Thank you so much for taking the time to share it with us all. I really appreciate it! I've never been there before and it sounds beautiful!
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Thank you for all the information, we are several months out, but I read about HMC to get the excitement up. Too bad my DH isn't into the info as much as I am.
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WarmWater: Thank you for such a well researched posting. Will be there soon...
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WarmWaters great compilation of info on HMC, what heaven may be like. Just one little teeny clarification on ownership of HMC. Carnival Corporation and plc owns it. As you say they acquired it with the HAL acquisition. Carnival Cruise Lines does not own it. CCL is an operating entity the same as HAL under the Carnival Corporation and plc umbrella as is Costa, Cunard, Princess, Seabourn, P&O, Aida, etc. As you say HAL has preference over CCL. Princess has its own island.
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Great information - thanks for taking the time to put everything in one place. A couple of questions though since we are going to HMC for the first time this fall....

Is the buffet free (assuming it is operated by the cruise ship) or is it additional charge? If a charge does it take the sign and sail card?

Are there ample palms for shade on the beach (outside of the cabanas)?

Do the bars take the sign & sail card?
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Originally posted by Wayfairers
Great information - thanks for taking the time to put everything in one place. A couple of questions though since we are going to HMC for the first time this fall....

Is the buffet free (assuming it is operated by the cruise ship) or is it additional charge? If a charge does it take the sign and sail card?

Are there ample palms for shade on the beach (outside of the cabanas)?

Do the bars take the sign & sail card?

Last year I was there and the buffet is free. The bar did take my ship card for the drinks I ordered and now they have a pirate ship bar too, I am not sure but think that they take the ship card for purchases.
Later in the day it was pretty sunny and depending on how many ships are in, you could be left without shade.
Through Holland I have rented and reserved a clamshell shade that houses two of the loungers for $15.
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