On my recent MSC Cruises on MSC Divina, one of our ports of call was Little San Salvador also known as Half Moon Cay. This little island is one of the over 700 islands that comprise the Bahamas and is owned by Holland America cruise line, which is owned by Carnival Corporation. The picture above shows the cabanas available for rental on the beach as well as the Captain Morgan bar, the ship like structure to the right.
With a 2.5 mile long crescent shaped beach, there is ample room for guests to enjoy all that this private island has to offer. You can pull up a lounge chair or your towel and lay out in the sun. Maybe you’ll want to go swimming, snorkeling, cycling, parasailing, go on a nature walk, or if you’re feeling ambitious, you can go for a run on the 5k trail. Some activities are free while others do have an associated cost. Check with your cruise line to see what excursions are available for your specific cruise.
This place is huge! We’re talking 2,400 acres with 50 acres developed for cruise guests. Although the island is a special retreat for those looking to relax and enjoy the sun, it also has the goal of maintaining as much natural area as possible for wildlife. It is also a significant nesting area for waterfowl. Don’t be surprised if you see animals scurrying about while you’re here. I even witnessed the running about of a few chickens.
Let’s say you’re feeling romantic or impulsive. You could always get married inside the island’s chapel with seating for up to 20 people. If that’s not on your to do list, it’s a great spot for capturing photos of the beach and surrounding areas or maybe even someone you love.
Holland America introduced the Captain Morgan bar in 2011 and it’s supposed to look like a washed up schooner. With seating inside and out, this is a great place to relax and get out of the sun if you’re looking for a drink. Since we weren’t on a Holland America cruise, it was interesting to watch the crew from MSC Cruises covering up the menu on the wall with towels since MSC Divina would have other options available for its cruise passengers. There are several other places on the island to get a drink so if not here, don’t worry as you’ll find others. Present your cabin card to buy drinks while here, but food is included. There’s quite a large barbecue buffet area open for lunch to grab a burger before heading back to the ship. Follow the smell of cooking meat to find its exact location.
My biggest suggestion when you get off the tender is to not park yourself immediately at the first square foot of sand that you find. Instead, walk and continue on for a distance to give yourself a little bit of space apart from other cruisers. In addition to the free lounge chairs, there are also cabanas and two-story beach villas available for rental as well as other items like floating mats, should you desire.
There is a straw market and shopping available near the entrance so if you think you might want to do any shopping, bring cash. Items available are of the typical tourist variety, which is good if you didn’t get off the ship in Nassau and want something from the Bahamas for family, friends, or for yourself.
Eventually, you’ll need to make your way back to your ship via the tender. As you pass the rocks and see the waves crashing up against them, reflect on this little island and all that is needed for it to function successfully year round. Did you know that it takes around 100 staff to manage the island? They don’t live on the island, but on neighboring islands and their hard work definitely shows.
Once I was back onboard the ship, I watched several tenders making their rounds with the remaining cruise guests returning to the ship. They basically use whatever boats are available on the island, such as the one used for the Glass Bottom boat excursion. If you’ve never taken a tender before, it’s basically a boat that is used to transport you to and from the ship when a port is not equipped to handle a ship and its passengers. This could be from having too many ships in port to not having a dock to support cruise ships.
If someone asks, “Why would I want to visit a cruise line’s private island?” nothing beats beautiful blue water and an abundance of sunshine. Maybe you’ve had a port intensive cruise and relaxing on a beach sounds perfect. Believe me, it is!