Holland America Line completes enhancements at Half Moon Cay

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HALF MOON CAY, Bahamas -- Holland America Lines private port of call here just got better.

As part of the lines $225 million Signature of Excellence upgrades, Half Moon Cay, the lines 2,400-acre island, was on the receiving end of several enhancements.

The new Half Moon Lagoon water park opened on the main beach with three water slides for young children.

Just offshore in the shallow sea, a cluster of floating toy animals -- including a crocodile, shark and octopus -- are tethered to the seafloor and are perfect for climbing.

Matthew Sams, vice president of Caribbean relations at HAL and the lines Half Moon guru, said three more slides for teens will be added this spring.

Other highlights on the beach are new massage huts and air-conditioned cabanas available for rent.

Horseback riding is accessible via a short tram ride from the main beach area. The tour uses two dozen quarter horses that were brought to the island from Jamaica earlier this year.

The $59 tour includes a scenic trail ride along the islands highest ridge, followed by a 15- to 20-minute trek through the surf.

A new stingray excursion, markedly different from the mass tourism approach visitors experience at Grand Caymans Stingray City, permits a maximum of 38 guests at a time ($39 per person) to mingle with 26 stingrays corralled in a 150-by-75-square-foot lagoon pen.

Theres also a guided, one-hour Jet Ski tour ($59 per person) in a saltwater lagoon far removed from the main beach.

All excursions can be booked prior to cruise departures at www.hollandamerica.com.

In response to Half Moons popularity, Sams said Holland America is considering seven-day itineraries with two visits to the island.

Although Half Moon Cay experienced some foliage damage from Hurricane Ivan last fall, new plantings already are flourishing and the islands beaches have been restored. 

When two ships call on the same day -- Sams reported that happened 13 times in 2004 -- more beach chairs are brought out, additional trams run and lunch times are extended.

To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to [email protected].

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