In 1997, Holland America Line purchased Little San Salvador from its previous owners for $6 million. Today, the 2,400-acre island is known as Half Moon Cay and serves as a private retreat for passengers on the line's Caribbean and Panama Canal sailings. (Carnival ships sometimes visit, too, as Holland America is owned by Carnival Corporation.)
The line invested $15 million to spruce up Half Moon Cay, but just 2 percent of it has been developed. Located less than 100 miles southeast of Nassau, the island houses its passenger facilities on less than 50 acres; much of the remaining land serves as a preserve for migratory birds, with the Bonefish Lagoon on the east side of the island. A small but picturesque 20-person chapel is located on the island to host weddings and vow renewals. Day-to-day operations are handled by nearly 100 employees who reside on nearby islands.
Heading into 2018, Holland America is celebrating the private island's 20th anniversary with special festivities like Caribbean-themed entertainment, a beach party with a DJ, a scavenger hunt and a brand-new children's water park.
You'll pay extra for alcohol, even if you have an unlimited package booked on your ship. A Half Moon Cay package is available for about $25 that gets you 15 drinks for your day on shore. Passengers can rent private air-conditioned cabanas or two-story beach villas if they want to escape the crowds, but these can book quickly as there might be other ships in port at the same time. Many expenses -- such as drinks, activities and souvenirs at the line's island shop -- can be put on passengers' onboard accounts. However, for purchases at the straw market, you'll need cash.
Also good to know for families with kids in tow, there is a Club HAL kids' club on the island, for parents who want to make sure their kiddos are enjoying some supervised time on shore, while they lounge one-on-one (or visit the massage cabana).
U.S. dollars are accepted on Half Moon Cay, but unless you're buying items for cash at the straw market, be sure to have your ship card handy for purchases. Credit cards are not accepted on the island and there are no ATMs.
English is spoken throughout this tiny Bahamian island.
Entering the island from your tender, through the Fort San Salvador entranceway, you'll see a few shops around the square, along with a market called Straw Works offering handicrafts like carvings and driftwood art, and hair braiding. Lustre is a standalone jewelry store; a generic gift shop sells items like T-shirts, keychains and sunscreen.