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Half Moon Cay Cruising Season Opens: What’s New on the Private Island

Holland America Line’s top-rated port in the Caribbean is Half Moon Cay, the company’s own private island oasis. Nestled in the Bahamas, Half Moon Cay is known for its pristine beaches, diverse shore excursions, exclusive beach cabanas and kid-friendly activities.

Today ms Zuiderdam makes the first Holland America Line call of the season, and guests will be excited to see that some enhancements have been made to the island. During the off-season, Holland America Line was busy at work giving the area a little face-lift, adding new amenities and making it more welcoming, pristine and relaxing than ever before.

Zuiderdam, anchored in the stunning turquoise waters off Half Moon Cay, kicks off the season today.

Zuiderdam, anchored in the stunning turquoise waters off Half Moon Cay, kicks off the season today.

Matt Sams, Holland America Line’s vice president Caribbean relations, says that guests have a lot to look forward to when they visit this season:

Q: What’s new for guests at Half Moon Cay this season?

Matt: We have added a tram tour and a new snorkel tour. Additional capacity has been added to the three island tenders. This has resulted in smoother and faster tender operations.

What else has been done to Half Moon Cay? At the Welcome Center, the garden was replanted, 40 new conch shells were added to the fountain and a music system was added so guests can enjoy the rhythm and sounds of the Caribbean as they arrive at the island.

The beach cabanas and beach villas were also part of the upgrades. Both received new “welcome” signature to the outside facade, and the two-story villas will feature new refrigerators and seat cushions. The cushions in the 15 beach cabanas were freshened as well. Guests can book their day in a private cabana or villa through the shore excursion area.

This was our second time stopping at Half Moon Cay with HAL as well as our second time booking a cabana. The cabana is a great home base, great snacks and snorkel and water toys. — Guest MarkFD

The cabanas, left, come in a rainbow hue of colors, and the two-story villas are an oasis on the beach.

The cabanas, left, come in a rainbow hue of colors, and the two-story villas are an oasis on the beach.

Loved the beach villa!!!! I have been known to frequent the cabanas, but … I will choose the beach villas from now on. My family had the best time. If you have more than three people … this is the way to go. — Guest Racergirl24

Sams was asked about the cabanas and villas, and here’s what he had to say:

Q: What are the perks of reserving a cabana for the day?

Matt: They are in a prime, beach-front location. They are air conditioned and have a shaded area, sun deck, misting station and refrigerator. Guests also get complimentary snorkeling equipment, floating mats, and reserved lounge and dining chairs. Optional butler packages for food and beverage service is available.

Q: The cabanas and beach villas are a special experience – what might guests not realize is included?

Matt: The beach villas and the Grand Cabana all have a private restroom and changing facilities. They also have indoor and outdoor showers, wet bars, refrigerators, dining tables, hot tubes, large outdoor sun decks, lots of shaded air conditioned areas, great ocean front views and island décor that enhances the mood of being in the Caribbean.

The refurbishments go beyond the cabanas and villas. Guests will notice new furniture at the Mermaid Bar, Captain Morgan on the Rocks Bar and the “I Wish I Could Stay Here Forever” bar.

Guests can relax on new furniture and enjoy a cocktail at the bars on Half Moon Cay.

Guests can relax on new furniture and enjoy a cocktail at the bars on Half Moon Cay.

While waiting for a tender, guests will be shaded by a new tent, and guests waiting for a tram can rest in comfort in a new tram station waiting area. Bathrooms located in the Welcome Center, Dune Path and Food Pavilion also were refurbished.

Sun-worshippers will appreciate new chaise lounges, more clam shells and 75 new floating mats.

All of the roads were repaved, making for a smoother ride, and bicycle stands were installed at all designated bicycle roadside shore excursion stops. Guests on the Eco-Bike & Hike tour will notice the new stands.

For the ocean-going tours and rentals, guests can enjoy the new paddleboards, that were featured in a recent blog post, as well as new water bikes, new kayaks and new Sea Doo jet skis.

New water-going equipment was added to Half Moon Cay, including the stand-up paddleboards and water bikes.

New water-going equipment was added to Half Moon Cay, including the stand-up paddleboards and water bikes.

Stingray Park is a main attraction at Half Moon Cay, and on the Stingray Adventure shore excursion guests can swim and interact with these wonderful creatures.

Feeding the stingrays was an absolutely wonderful experience! I was a little hesitant at first because I’m not fond of the water so I was happy to see that there was a deck for me to stand on to watch everyone else if I didn’t go in the water. Happily, I did go in because the water was shallow enough for me to stand up in (I’m very short) and it wasn’t icy cold even though it was early April. You don’t need to snorkel because the water is so clear you can just look down and see everything perfectly. We got to pet the rays as well as feed them. One of them took a liking to me and she kept rubbing against me just like a cat. The young man guiding us explained so much and answered all our questions. He truly loves his water babies! — Guest LizCruise


Guests visiting the stingray area or taking a tour will notice that there is fresh paint, new carpet and landscaping. Additional marine life also has been procured, the sand was replenished and a new walking trail on the ridge from Stingray Park to Water Sports Rental Center #3 was added.

Sams was asked a few more question to get an insider’s perspective on Half Moon Cay, and his answers were fun and informative:

Q: Why do you think Half Moon Cay consistently gets rated the #1 Caribbean port by Holland America Line guests?

Matt: It is what guests have pictured in their mind the Caribbean should look like. The experience ashore matches their high expectations as well. And, we have the best staff in the industry.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to do on Half Moon Cay?

Matt: Walk on the beach at the water’s edge.

Q: Swimming with the stingrays, glass-bottom boat or riding a horse through the surf?

Matt: For me, horses for sure!

The horseback riding tour is a highlight for Sams.

The horseback riding tour is a highlight for Sams.

Q: What’s the most fun thing to do at Half Moon Lagoon?

Matt: View the reef ball trail that is in shallow water and is perfect for the novice swimmer or snorkeler.

And finally…

Q: If you could stay on Half Moon Cay for a week, what three things would you need with you?

Matt: A fishing pole, matches and a good book.

Have you visited Half Moon Cay? What’s your favorite thing to do there, and what refurbishments are you most looking forward to seeing? Tell us below!

If you’re taking a Caribbean cruise that visits Half Moon Cay, the shore excursions, including beach cabanas and villas, can be pre-booked so you get the tour and retreat of your choice.

  • Helen Fiddes

    Oh, Half Moon Cay. The best place on earth. We first visited there in 2001 and had such a great time that when I sail the Caribbean I always try to get an itinerary that stops there.
    I have rented the Red Cabana now for at least 4 cruises and will do so again.
    Thank you HAL for such a beautiful Island to relax and enjoy or as my Daughter and Granddaughter did, parasail.

  • Scott Lara

    I have been to Half Moon Cay many times. It’s pure paradise!

  • Barbara Bell

    We were there on the Zuiderdam and in a Villa. Received prime service by our butlers Nina and Mario. Definitely happy we decided to book the villa and had a wonderful time on the beach and exploring the island. Thank you Holland America!

  • Alice

    Half Moon Cay is a gem, and when the blog said HAL was “making it more welcoming, pristine and relaxing than ever before” I was intrigued. But a music system so we hear Caribbean tunes at the Welcome Center doesn’t sound relaxing, it only adds more noise. While the cabanas and villas sound wonderful, the short amount of time the ship is at the island doesn’t make them a good deal for many passengers. The live music in Captain Morgan’s Bar ends at about 1:00 pm, although the last tender is 3:30. Last call at the bar is 1:30. How do you continue to enjoy the villa/cabana if the bar is closed ? The tram tour adds a sense of Disneyland/amusement park, but I understand it’s necessary for those who have mobility issues and want to see the island.
    HAL, please, don’t add more stuff !!!! Less is more.

  • Vickie

    My husband and I have been to Half Moon Cay on our last two cruises. We didn’t do excursions because the beach itself is just so wonderful. Holland America has done a fabulous job of keeping it in pristine condition. We are considering a longer cruise just so we can go their twice in one cruise!

  • Michael Peel

    More of a question. Is Half Moon Cay handicap accessible? Understand transportation from the ship is by Tender, can an electric scooter be accommodated? I saw a lot of sand in the photos; I assume then that there are suitable paved areas for handicap access?

  • AJ

    Half Moon Cay is one of my favorite places. I look to book a stop there on most Caribbean cruises. Once we were unable to stop due to rough weather for the tenders. In my mind, that entire cruise was a bust. Next week I will be on a cruise which stops at Half Moon twice. I am excited, but I agree with the post about less is more. Don’t add more amenities; keep it unique and peaceful. A true oasis experience.

  • Patricia Wilcox

    I would rather spend two days on half moon cay than visit the Bahamas -Nassau!! Make it so!

  • Patricia Wilcox

    More time here please!!

  • Charlie Shannon

    Loved Halfmoon Cay. After the brutal winters we have in northern Canada, it was like heaven just to soak up the sun(maybe too much) and heat. Our bodies really needed it.We haven’t been back since the new changes but looking forward to it sometime soon.

  • Eunice Bennett

    Half Moon Cay is one of my favorite place on earth to go to. I’m always happy when I can do a cruise that goes there. Only wish we had more time there, like an over night. It would be great sleeping on the beach. I love the beach and the beautiful warm sea water. One thing I love to do there is feed the white/clear fish, they look like Angel fish and are about 8-10″ long. Tap the water once and you have dozens of fish there is seconds. When you feed them they jump out of the water, they’re so much fun. I was there October 24, 2014 when cruising on the Westerdam and Thank You Captain Rens Van Eerten for stopping and allowing us to get off the ship and have a great time even though it was raining the entire time, it didn’t stop any of us who love Half Moon Cay to have a great time at the beach and in the water. What a wonderful place it is, don’t do anymore improvements or make anymore changes because it’s just perfect the way it is now, Thank You HAL for a beautiful island.

  • Maria Perez

    My husband and I love this place. We rather go to Half Moon Cay than to go to Nassau or Turks and Cayucos. The beach is one of the best and the place is very well kept.

  • JoAnn Slate

    The island itself is entertainment enough! We do not need music or shops, only enough time to experience sand and sea and maybe a picnic if one is on the agenda. A day at Half Moon Cay provides tropical ambience at its best, the real reason many of us like to cruise.

  • Janet Schwab

    Just visited Half Moon Cay on the Westerdam. The most beautiful island and water I have ever seen in my life. Wonderful experience. Will be sure Half Moon Cay is part of the itinerary on my future cruises

  • Janet Schwab

    I would rather stop there than Nassau

  • david sobien

    The place has some problems. There is very little shade. So the cruise line sells shade. People are bunched up under what little tree shade there is. To get out of the sun in comfort, you have to buy shade in the huts. Also there is a long walk in the hot sun to get a dried out hamberger. It is not worth the walk. Other cruise lines have more comfortable islands with lots of tree shade and hammocks. I would not buy my cruise based on this island experience.

  • Dermot O Mahoney

    We booked a cabana and it was one of the highlights of our cruise.It is a beautiful setting and the staff are outstanding.

  • John McNiff

    My wife and I just returned from Half Moon Cay and we loved the atmosphere, the friendly staff, the pristine beaches and plenty of water activities to participate in. I enjoyed my Jet Ski excursion and relaxing on the gorgeous beach. I wish I could spend a few days at Half Moon Cay because I feel my time there was probably the most relaxing portion of the entire weeks cruise.

  • Catherine Simpson

    A girlfriend and I spent a wonderful day at Half Moon Cay and swam with the Stingrays. The barbecue lunch was very plentiful and had lots of selection. The beach was pristine. I want to go back on HAL this winter and very much look forward to another day at Half \moon Cay.

  • Terry & Gail Bell

    We’ve visited on more than one occasion and thought Half Moon Cay was beautiful to start with. Since our first visit we’ve noticed more and more building going on. A couple of bars on the beach to startg and since our last trip we now see you’ve added even more noisy, commercial structures and activities. Jet skis? Really?? The noise from them alone is enough to deter us from going ashore at Half Moon Cay again. Better to enjoy the quiet onboard on our very own balcony! Please don’t continue the building and commercialization at the Cay.

    We’ll watch your future posts for updates.

  • jennifer

    I was at HMC for the first time in 2012 and I will be there in 18 days. I swam with stingrays my first time and even though we had rain it was still the best cruise. I am looking forward to going back this year and getting time to swim in the beautiful water and seeing more of the island this time… We rented a two story villa both times which was a blast. Keep up the great work

  • Stan

    I would book a five day cruise twice a year in January-March if it would just park at half moon cay for the entire trip. The rest of the Bahama ports is nothing special. At half moon cay its paradise.

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