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How to stay on a private island in the Caribbean – dive into blue waters with Holland America Line

Author: Lucy Abbott

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Holland America Line goes above and beyond on Caribbean cruises offering you the chance to feel like a millionaire by visiting the line’s private island, Half Moon Cay.

Caribbean cruise holidays serve up white-sand beaches and crystal blue waters, luring hordes of jet-setters year after year.

On a cruise with Holland America Line, you will experience the beautiful region in true luxury, discovering Caribbean islands in greater depth through inside stories, regional cuisine and authentic experiences as you sail to some of the lesser-visited islands, such as Curaçao, Aruba, Bonaire and Grenada. What’s more, you also get to visit the exclusive private island Half Moon Cay.

This luxurious experience can be found onboard too. On a Holland America Line ship you will find elegant lounges adorned with fine art, spacious staterooms (many with private balconies), restaurants serving gourmet cuisine and delicious snacks, state-of-the-art leisure amenities and live music for all, be it blues, classical or rock.

Guests are also promised the ultimate in luxury onboard, with wonderful little extras such as complimentary hors d’oeuvres at cocktail hour, hand-dipped chocolates after dinner, fresh fruit baskets on request, ice service and bathrobes in all staterooms.

Holland America Line’s Caribbean cruises run from seven to 14 nights and include the option of a collector’s cruise – combining two shorter cruises with no-repeat calls. Itineraries include voyages to the Southern, Western or Eastern Caribbean with some even including the famed Panama Canal.

Read on to find out more about HAL’s Caribbean cruises and how to stay on a private island…

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What is the best cruise line for the Panama Canal?

The Panama Canal, opened in 1914, is considered one of the seven wonders of the modern world. A 48-mile waterway, it divides two continents and connects two oceans.

Holland America Line was among the first to foresee how iconic it would be as a cruise destination, so for 2023 the cruise line has planned a series of itineraries featuring the Panama Canal.

These include a cruise onboard Zuiderdam for a 14-day Panama Canal itinerary, departing from San Diego, California visiting Puerto Vallarta in Mexico, Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala and more.

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What are the best Caribbean and Panama Canal Cruises?

To truly experience the Caribbean and Panama Canal, you want a cruise line which takes you to the most impressive Caribbean islands alongside the unique experience of visiting a private island, and Holland America Line provides just this.

Each sailing features a Canal historian onboard to answer all your burning questions along the way. On both sides of the Canal, treasures abound - Costa Rica’s lush rain forests, sunny Dutch islands in the Southern Caribbean, the Mexican Riviera and monolithic Mayan temples in Guatemala.

A 14-to-17-night Panama Canal cruise is a perfect example of what the line has to offer. Departing San Diego to Fort Lauderdale (or reverse) September to April yearly, the voyage gets off to a dramatic start with explorations of the Mexican Riviera and Central America.

Stroll Puerto Vallarta’s lively malecón, lined with trendy restaurants, boutiques and impressive public art; meet a Maya weaver in Puerto Quetzal who still spins ancient stories on a backstrap loom; hear tales of the early conquistadores in colonial León, Nicaragua; zip-line through a rain forest in Puerto Caldera, or grab your binoculars to add scores of bird sightings to your life list.

Watch Stingray being fed in Half Moon Cay with Holland America Line. Credit: Shutterstock

Then comes a full daylight transit of the Panama Canal. Marvel as your ship is lifted 85 feet from the Pacific to Gatún Lake, then gently lowered to the Caribbean, using no power other than the force of gravity. Visit the historic Spanish city of Cartagena in Colombia and finally, finish with a day of play on Half Moon Cay, Holland America Line’s own private island in the Caribbean.

How to stay on a private island in the Caribbean

Lucky you! You get to experience the lifestyle of the rich and famous by spending a full day on the private island, Half Moon Cay.

Enjoy Half Moon Cay for the entire day on a selection of Holland America Line cruises, such as the 14-day Southern Caribbean itinerary departing April 1, 2023.

Arriving at 8am and departing at 3pm gives you plenty of time to embark on excursions such as snorkelling expeditions or historic nature walks.

Do whatever takes your fancy, go horseback riding and ride along winding trails up to the highest point of the island before venturing into the ocean.

Alternatively, go on a e-bike ride to Stingray Cove and watch these interesting creatures being fed before kayaking down Half Moon Cay’s saltwater lagoon.

Relax on the miles of white sand beaches in Half Moon Cay with Holland America Line. Credit: Shutterstock

What is Half Moon Cay?

Half Moon Cay, or as it is officially known, Little San Salvador Island, is located in The Bahamas midway between Eleuthera and Cat Island.

Celebrating its 25th Anniversary during the 2022-23 Caribbean season, Half Moon Cay is the exclusive property of Holland America Line and most of the 2,400-acre land is a nature reserve, only three per cent of which is developed.

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What to do in Half Moon Cay?

At Half Moon Cay enjoy miles of pristine white-sand beaches and activities such as horseback riding in the surf, snorkelling, sailing, paddle boarding and kayaking. For the less active among you, there are also private cabanas and villas.

Step into an adult’s playground, with a natural 700-acre lagoon, private cabanas and delicious dining venues such as the Lobster Shack.

Go horseback riding on the beach in Half Moon Cay with Holland America Line. Credit: Shutterstock

What are Half Moon Cay excursions?

Holland America Line offers an excursion for everyone, from those who prioritise relaxation (raise your hands!) or those thrill-seekers out there - a range of activities await.

You can book a range of water activities, including paddleboats and catamarans as well as horseback riding on the beach and a stingray adventure, on which you can interact with these creatures in their natural habitat.

Book onto a ‘Snorkel by Boat’ excursion and sail to the coast of Half Moon Cay and gaze at an array of gloriously coloured fish and coral in crystal clear waters.

You can also embark on an ‘Eco Lagoon Kayak Adventure’ during which you join an island guide on a kayak adventure on Bone Fish Lagoon, comprising of more than 1,400 acres of protected habitat and home to numerous species of flora such as the pretty silver buttonwood tree.

Plentiful dining options on the island will please the whole family after a busy excursion, such as The Tropics Restaurant serving a barbeque lunch as well as a Captain Morgan bar, alongside many other watering holes for the adults.

If you have let the romance of this private island get to your head there are even the facilities to renew your vows or even get married at the chapel!

Embark on Holland America Line's Nieuw Amsterdam to discover the Caribbean. Credit: Shutterstock

How good is Holland America Line?

If these gorgeous destinations aren’t enough to entice you, then Holland America Line has an immersive destination programme, EXC, making your cruise even more memorable. It offers indispensable insights and tips from local experts, interactive activities and cultural encounters.

EXC provides a unique way for guests to understand and appreciate the most fascinating corners of the globe through a variety of experiences - whether it’s photographing wildlife in Costa Rica, sampling tacos in Mexico or studying the engineering complexities of the Panama Canal.

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Guests who want to learn more about their destinations can attend EXC Talks and gain insights about everything from proper etiquette to the best tours.

Through EXC Encounters, local cultural ambassadors might explore Mexican crafts and dance and the Spanish language. Plus, a mariachi band performs for guests at one of the ports of call.

For more information on HAL’s Caribbean cruises call 0344 338 8605 or visit

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About Lucy Abbott

Lucy is a cruise journalist who has sailed on a variety of ships, from expedition to river – with her favourite being expedition cruising.

Lucy is interested in new sustainable ways to cruise as well as how cruising is becoming accessible for all.

She works together with Kaye Holland to keep the World of Cruising website up to date with all the latest cruise news.