Half Moon Cay, Bahamas

Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas is a private island that was purchased by the Holland America Line in order to entertain and delight their cruise ship passengers along an aquamarine lagoon and two miles of pristine sand.

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Holland America’s Noordham Cruise Ship at Half Moon Cay, The Bahamas

The MS Noordham is one of 15 cruise ships operated by the Holland American Line. The 1,924 passenger ship was launched in 2006. Its namesake, the SS Noordam, first sailed in 1902 and ten years later it warned the Titanic of approaching icebergs. This Dutch line was called the Netherlands-American Steamship Company when it was formed in 1873. Today, it still flies Netherland’s flag but its headquarters are in Seattle, Washington. It is owned by the Carnival Corporation.

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Boat on Lagoon Entering Marina at Half Moon Cay, The Bahamas

Cruise ships stopping at Half Moon Cay for the day must anchor just off shore and then tender their passengers onto the private island. As you arrive on a double-decker boat, you will float through the lagoon before entering the marina. Throughout the day you’ll see excursion trips entering and leaving from the tender pier, including glass bottom boats and parasailing adventures.

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Fort San Salvador Welcome Center at Half Moon Cay, The Bahamas

On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus and the crew from his three ships set foot on San Salvador in the Bahamas and were greeted by the Lucayans natives. This event was the inspiration for naming a small, deserted island Little San Salvador. When Holland America purchased the island in 1996, they renamed it in honor of Henry Hudson’s ship: the Half Moon. It is also part of the company’s logo. Yet the Welcome Center is called Fort San Salvador.

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Bahamian Village Plaza at Half Moon Cay, The Bahamas

Inside the Welcome Center you will find a straw market that is run by women from nearby Eleuthera Island. They take a 90 minute boat ride to Half Moon Cay whenever a ship is in port. Also available in the Bahamian Village is the Rum Runners Bar, a gift store, an excursion office, an ice cream shop and even a post office. In the center of The Plaza is this conch shell water fountain.

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Pristine White Beach at Half Moon Cay, The Bahamas

There are plenty of activities to keep you busy during your one-day visit to Half Moon Cay, but its best feature is the two miles of sandy, white beach. Plus the shallow waters of the Bone Fish Lagoon are always warm because the island’s temperature is consistently in the 70°s or 80°s. It is the picture-perfect postcard of paradise.

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Clamshell Sunshades on Beach at Half Moon Cay, The Bahamas

After a few days of cruising, you will probably forget how to make decisions. But once you arrive at Half Moon Cay, you’ll have to decide where to sit along the beach. The loungers are free or you can rent a clamshell shade. Best of all, find a hammock to enjoy your nap. Afterwards, treat yourself to a relaxing massage beneath a ceiling fan. I guarantee you will get back to the ship refreshed and ready for a big dinner after your exhausting day in port.

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Woman Snorkeling in Lagoon at Half Moon Cay, The Bahamas

One of the many fun activities on Half Moon Cay is snorkeling. After renting equipment from one of three Water Sports Centers, you can enjoy your swim in the shallow waters near the Welcome Center or thrill at seeing southern stingrays at the Stingray Adventure Cove. If you are an experienced snorkeler, then walk to the other end of the beach where you can explore exquisite coral in 75 to 100 feet of water.

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Colorful Sailboat Sails at Half Moon Cay, The Bahamas

On Half Moon Cay, the phrase “whatever sails your boat” is inverted into “whatever boat you sail” because you can virtually rent any type of watercraft to enjoy your day on a sheltered lagoon. Among your choices are these Sunfish sailboats or Hobie Cat catamarans. Also available are kayaks, water bikes, paddle boats, jet skis or a simple float.

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Couple Enjoying View from Bench at Half Moon Cay, The Bahamas

Half Moon Cay in The Bahamas has almost every amenity you’d ever want for an active day on a tropical island. But sometimes the best activity is sitting on a bench next to your spouse so you can enjoy the spectacular view of a sandy beach along the Atlantic Ocean.

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Colorful Private Cabanas at Half Moon Cay, The Bahamas

All winter you dreamed about vacationing in the hot tropics. But once you get there you may find your pasty white skin can’t tolerate a full day in the sun. So why not pamper yourself by renting one of 15 cabanas at Half Moon Cay? Each of these colorful huts is fully equipped with a refrigerator, air conditioner and deck chairs. You can also order food and drink packages. And if you still get too hot, just slip under your own private misting shower.

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People Swimming in Bone Fish Lagoon at Half Moon Cay, The Bahamas

These people are enjoying a swim in the shallow, aquamarine waters of Bone Fish Lagoon at Half Moon Cay. Holland America purchased this island in 1996 for $6 million and then invested another $16 million to develop 50 acres as a private hideaway for its cruise ship passengers. The remaining 2,350 acres are a bird sanctuary and nature preserve. Technically, it is one of The Bahama’s 700 islands.

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Bahamian Church at Half Moon Cay, The Bahamas

If you have always dreamed of a destination wedding, or want to renew your wedding vows as part of an anniversary cruise, then consider arranging this Bahamian church prior to your trip. The lovely, non-denomination chapel seats 20 guests. After the ceremony, enjoy a glass of champagne and then have the reception at the Private Oasis. The 1,620 foot building has a large deck overlooking the lagoon plus a dining area, full wet bar, a barbecue and an eight-person hot tub. How’s that for romantic?

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Couple Walking Along Beach at Half Moon Cay, Bahamas

This couple enjoyed strolling along the crescent-shaped beach at Half Moon Cay while the surf gently lapped against their bare feet. They did not have a care in the world, except for carrying their flips flops and a beach bag. If only every day were this wonderful and carefree.

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I Wish I Could Stay Here Forever Sign at Half Moon Cay, The Bahamas

This photo looks like a marketing poster for the Holland America cruise line, but it is actually a sign for the “I Wish I Could Stay Here Forever” bar on Half Moon Cay. It is one of four taverns that serve adult beverages along the beach. So rest assured that you never have to walk too far in order to sip your next rum punch or frosty beer. Heaven forbid that you get thirsty.

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On The Rocks Pirate Ship Bar at Half Moon Cay, The Bahamas

This full-sized, wooden pirate ship looks like it was beached after losing a battle against the Spaniards. It actually houses “On The Rocks,” the largest bar on Half Moon Cay. Inside the schooner is a full-service tavern where you can relax with great views of the beach and lagoon while listening to calypso music.

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Playing Steel Drum at Half Moon Cay, The Bahamas

Most people associate the steel drum to the sounds of calypso in the Caribbean. This genre of music originated in Trinidad during the 17th century, but its Afro-Caribbean roots can be traced to the African slaves who worked on French sugar plantations during the 1700s. This pannist at the “On the Rocks” bar at Half Moon Cay was very talented. She had the entire tavern full of cruise ship passengers tapping their flip-flops to the beat.

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Captain Morgan Stained Glass Window at Half Moon Cay, The Bahamas

Rum drinkers will immediately recognize this swashbuckling figure that is standing on a wooden cask: Captain Morgan. But few people know much about Sir Henry Morgan. Born in 1635, he became infamous as a ruthless privateer who attacked Spanish ships and towns in the Caribbean for the enrichment of England and his crew. Shortly before he died in 1688, he was the subject of a scathing book about his exploits. Although he successfully sued for a retraction, his reputation was forever sealed.

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Old Pirate Cannon Replica at Half Moon Cay, The Bahamas

This is one of several cannons you will see at Half Moon Cay. They are reminiscent of those used by pirates who terrorized ships in The Bahamas from 1684 until 1718. Although this rusty weapon is inactive, your children can enjoy a water-shooting cannon on a pirate ship at the Club HAL playground. Closer to the beach is the Lagoon Water Park. Here the kids can have fun climbing on 21 water toys that are shaped like marine animals and cooling off on the waterslides.

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Small Boat Floating in Lagoon at Half Moon Cay, The Bahamas

After spending a week or more on a large cruise ship with a thousand or more passengers, it might be delightful to rent a runabout with a small outboard motor to explore the shallow Bone Fish Lagoon at Half Moon Cay. It won’t go very fast but when you don’t have far to go and you are on vacation, what’s your hurry?

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Horse Stable at Pegasus Ranch on Half Moon Cay, The Bahamas

If you ever dreamed of horseback riding on a beach then you can fulfill your fantasy at Half Moon Cay. Just walk along the nature trail, or take a cart, to the Pegasus Ranch. You’ll find a stable that is home to about twenty horses. The staff will be happy to lead you on a riding excursion that fits your experience level. Or if you prefer, just enjoy the fragrance of the flowers while watching these magnificent animals.

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Horseback Riding on Beach Near Pegasus Ranch on Half Moon Cay, The Bahamas

Your horseback excursion at Half Moon Cay starts with a safety lesson and donning helmets. Then a few practice paces within a pen before the procession heads onto a trail. Once you have the riding confidence of Dale Evans and Roy Rogers, your group emerges onto the beach. The pace is hardly like a steeplechase but the adventure sure is fun.

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Friends Left Behind at Pegasus Ranch on Half Moon Cay, The Bahamas

These friends were sure they were going to carry a tourist during the next horseback riding adventure on Half Moon Cay’s beach. But no! Rejected again! They were sad and forlorn as the other lucky horses trotted away.

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1 Romantic Isolation On Beach at Half Moon Cay, The Bahamas

The white sand on this private island stretches for two miles. Although it can be a bit crowded near the tender pier, the further you walk the more isolated and romantic it becomes. So hold your partner’s hand and go enjoy a perfect afternoon now while creating a lasting memory for the future.

Half Moon Cay, The Bahamas
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Loungers Along Beach and Lagoon at Half Moon Cay, The Bahamas

After visiting so many wonderful Caribbean ports, I was skeptical about spending a full day on a private island with over 1,000 passengers from the Holland America cruise ship. I expected it to be cramped and boring. But just the opposite is true at Half Moon Cay in The Bahamas. The beach and the lagoon are spectacular. And there are so many activities available that I was disappointed when the last tender headed back to the ship.

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