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Cruising - Private Islands Part 3
Half Moon Cay - Holland America
All the large cruise lines now have ‘private’ islands, where their ships anchor for the day, or part of the day. Some of these are leased, some are owned, but all offer a relaxed taste of paradise. These islands combine the best of both worlds – either a laid back escape or a fun and activity packed day, complete with beach BBQ and Caribbean calypso music.
This 65 acre paradise is part of the Little San Salvador Island on the Bahamas, which is 2, 400 acres in total. Half Moon Cay was designated an international wild bird preserve by the Bahamian National Trust, and has a beautiful 2 mile bay, which is crescent shaped, and has powdery soft white sand, where warm turquoise waters lap gently on the beach. It also boasts a huge interior lagoon.
Designated by Porthole Cruise Magazine as the ‘Best Private Island’ five years in a row, Holland America have poured over $25 million into improving the facilities and to repair the substantial damage which resulted from the hurricanes last year. They have added more activities and more services, including private cabanas with a butler for those who want an even more luxurious experience. Their intention is to stay ahead of the competition, and Half Moon Cay certainly provides a fantastic tropical escape.
What could be better than stepping onto the tender and being whisked away to pristine white beaches where swaying palms offer a shady retreat, whilst children play safely in their own special area with slides and giant water creatures to climb on? And for children it really is paradise! There are extensive facilities, with a full schedule of kids’ activities, run by the ship’s staff, so mum and dad can have a relaxing break, too. Club HAL has a fully equipped children’s playground and supervised swimming area, and trained staff are on hand to ensure their safety.
You can even get married here in the special Bahamian Chapel, set amidst a beautiful tropical garden, or simply renew your marriage vows in this tropical paradise. Even those with mobility difficulties are catered for as they have special wheelchairs for use on the sand, and also trams to transport people from place to place.
Some of the new attractions include the Half Moon Cay Aqua Park, horse riding on land and in the sea, a stingray adventure, AquaTrax Watercraft adventure, plus the usual sailing, parasailing, glass bottomed boats, windsurfing, scuba diving, kayaking, snorkelling and even deep sea fishing for grouper and snapper. You can also take a scenic bicycle ride to discover historical sites, and the horse riding includes a ride along trails which lead to the highest point on the island, from where there are spectacular views, finishing with an amazing experience as your horse swims through the surf.
The AquaTrax experience is most interesting as this involves an individual sit-on watercraft. Once safely onboard, you follow a leader who guides you along the shoreline, navigating round the reef formations which surround this island, and stopping off for a cooling drink before stopping at the Indian village and Stingray Cove.
There is even a Stingray encounter at Stingray Cove, a short tram ride away from the Welcome Center. This excursion includes the chance to learn about the stingrays’ habitat and the way they behave, including their feeding and breeding habits. Once you have donned your snorkelling gear, and had a safety briefing you are able to wade into the water so you can touch these amazing creatures, and even feed them with bits of squid.
If you want pure relaxation and to indulge yourself then there are beach massages provided by the ship’s spa staff, and three water sport centres. Those who enjoy nature are not forgotten as there are nature trails and bird watching.
Those who prefer the ultimate in luxury can rent a private cabana, for 4 people complete with priority tendering – be on the first tender of the day. Unbelievably, these luxury private cabanas are fully equipped with a ‘fridge, air conditioning, a ceiling fan, dining table and chairs, sun loungers, even a misting shower on your ownprivate terrace! Snorkelling gear, beach mats and towels are included, as is fruit, vegetables with a dip, chips and salsa, and plenty of bottled water and soft drinks to ensure you don’t get dehydrated. All this can be yours for $249 per person.
Food, of course, is provided by a beach BBQ and there are two bars, the aptly named ‘I Wish I Could Stay Here Forever’ Bar and the Half Moon Saloon.
There is no doubt that Holland America has put a lot of thought into making this the ultimate private island escape. The amenities are excellent and there truly is something for everyone. Whether you want an active day or a truly indulgent one, your every need will be catered for here, on this beautiful island.
This island is shared by Windstar Cruises and Carnival Cruise Lines.
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