How a Private Island Won Me Over

It’s confession time. The concept of a private island hadn’t won me over. Until now.

Why wasn’t I a fan, you ask? We like ports with shops and supermarkets. Local restaurants serving fresh fish. You find this on lots of islands that are port stops in the Caribbean. Then came COVID. Many islands were closed to tourists or ships weren’t sailing.

I recently traveled on a press trip aboard the Holland America Line (HAL) flagship Rotterdam. The trip was courtesy of both HAL and All Things Cruise.

Half Moon Cay

In 1996 HAL purchased Little San Salvador Island, now known as Half Moon Cay. The island is about 2,400 acres in size with a man-made resort in one central spot. The rest of the island has been carefully maintained in its natural state. There is a full-time population of 45 HAL employees with additional staff brought in when necessary. The horses (47) outnumber people. The horses look very happy, although in their airconditioned prefab housing with electricity, running water, cell service and a satellite dish, the people living on the island have lots to be happy about too.

Ten Reasons Why I’m Now a Big Fan

What changed my mind?  Why do I like this private island a lot?

  1. Covid Protocols. Who will you encounter on the island? Other passengers or HAL employees. Everyone has been vaccinated. The crew is tested every two weeks.
  2. Personal safety. You might think about the safety on Caribbean islands. Here, you will only encounter HAL employees or other passengers. The ship is your hotel, so everyone goes back to their own bed at night.
  3. Lots of ferries. I think they have four boats in continuous operation. One loading at the anchored ship, another loading at the dock on land, one heading to shore and another heading towards the ship.
  4. Why carry money? It’s possible you could find something to buy. (A straw hot perhaps?)  Since the island is an extension of the ship, your stateroom keycard should be all you need.
  5. Luxury ashore. HAL has built several tiers of beachfront accommodation with costs attached. You can get a 12-person cottage with wine and food. The next step is the 8-person airconditioned beach houses with fruit and soft drinks. Four people might rent a cabana. Two people might prefer a clamshell shade shelter for two loungers.
  6. Lobster anyone? The beach has a lobster-themed, open-air restaurant. We preordered food aboard the ship. Seafood soup and a lobster roll is priced at $ 17.00. That’s not bad.
  7. Beach on a budget. Suppose you didn’t want to spend money? There are plenty of loungers on the beach. There’s a BBQ area doing hot dogs and burgers. You will likely be buying your drinks.
  8. No tourist traps. The fish sandwich I had in another port stop was largely potato. You’ve had firsthand experience of places with poor food and bad service. They know they’ll never see you again. HAL staffs the island themselves. They want you talking about it and coming back. It’s a positive experience.
  9. Hard to miss the ship. Yes, the ship will sail away. They know you got off the boat. They know if you’ve come back. There’s a limited number of places you can go! This isn’t a “drink too much and miss the ship” scenario.
  10. Quality food. Think about that big country where you can’t drink the water. Half Moon Cay has its own water treatment plant. HAL runs the island, so they control the quality of the food.

We took a tour of the island in a truck mounted with wooden benches. (It’s better than it sounds.)  We saw people swimming with the stingrays. We saw the stabling area for houseback riding. There are water-based activities too. There’s enough to make a visit a nice day out from the ship.

We are looking forward to returning.

Holland America Line – HAL (


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