New pirate ship bar greets cruisers to Holland America’s Half Moon Cay

Half Moon Cay, Bahamas

Make no mistake: The new bar on Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas may look like a pirate ship, but it has never been to sea, and it’s not going anywhere.

New Captain Morgan Bar on Half Moon Cay (Photo by David G. Molyneaux, The Captain Morgan on the Rocks Island Bar was built from scratch on bedrock, 9 feet below the sand, and those wood planks on the ship’s hull were nailed together – in the fall of 2010.

Still, it’s a pirate ship in form, a 101-foot-long, twin-decked, three-masted schooner with artifacts and historic references to Captain Morgan, whose pirating days, more than 350 years ago,  churned these waters and soaked the sands with plunder.

Nice view from Captain Morgan bar Half Moon Cay (Photo by David G. Molyneaux, The bar is a good spot for hoisting beers, viewing Bahamian waters as far away as Eleuthera Island, and listening to the band that comes ashore from whatever cruise ship is visiting for the day.

Holland America, which owns the island once known as Little San Salvador, says the bar was built in a partnership with Diageo Global Travel & Middle East (GTME), a beverage business that created Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum in 1983.

HALCats play at Captain Morgan Bar on Half Moon Cay (Photo by David G. Molyneaux, Beer was flowing and a ship’s band, Darlene and the HALCats, were playing when Holland America’s new, 2,100-passenger Nieuw Amsterdam stopped for the day. The bar’s official grand opening was Saturday, Jan. 29, when two other HAL ships, Noordam and Maasdam, visited the private island.

While Half Moon Cay is a favorite private island with many passengers – with nice beaches, swimming with stingrays, horseback riding and other soft adventures – there is no dock for cruise ships, which must stay off-shore and tender their passengers to the beach. Winds off the Atlantic sometimes make the tender operation too dangerous, and the ships move on, with disappointed passengers.

Tai chi where pirates used to plunder

Tai chi on Half Moon Cay, Nieuw Amsterdam and parasailing off shore (Photo by David G. Molyneaux,

This area of the Bahamas has always been somewhat treacherous. When you explore Half Moon Cay, you can see why pirates liked the island: From a bluff, maybe 150 feet high, you can spy any ship making its move toward the Atlantic.

In the days when cargo ships, laden with goods from the Americas, sailed toward Europe, the primary route from the Caribbean to the Atlantic Ocean went through the Bahamas. Pirates caught them, and relieved them of their valuable cargo, because the pirate ships were smaller and faster.

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