Princess Cays Vs Half Moon Cay: 8 Key Differences



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Princess Cays and Half Moon Cay are two private destinations that are owned by the Carnival Group and used by Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line and Holland America Line.

While both offer a fun and luxurious escape, there are several important differences between them.

A split image comparing Princess Cays and Half Moon Cay, showcasing the differences between the two tropical destinations. On the left, Princess Cays is depicted with its vibrant resort layout against the backdrop of lush greenery and turquoise waters, while the right side features the pristine, untouched white sandy beaches and clear blue waters of Half Moon Cay.

This guide will make clear what those important differences are so that you can make a more educated choice when deciding on your next cruise destination.

1. Only One Is An Island

While both Princess Cays and Half Moon Cay are sometimes referred to as cruise line private islands, only Half Moon Cay is actually an island. Princess Cays is a private resort area on the larger island of Eleuthera.

Despite this, Half Moon Cay is actually bigger – much bigger, as it measures around 2,400 acres in total compared to the 40-acre stretch of beach that makes up Princess Cays.

Despite this, most guests visiting Half Moon Cay will stick to the 50 acres that have been developed as a luxury resort.

Guests can explore further afield from Princess Cays if they wish, and visit other parts of the island (provided they make it back to the ship in time, of course). Most people prefer to stick to the area around Princess Cays though since there’s more to do.

2. Different Cruise Lines Visit Each Destination

The Carnival Group owns a number of cruise lines, but not every one of them visits each of these destinations.

Princess Cays is primarily visited by Carnival and by Princess Cruises – unsurprising really, considering the name. More Princess ships visit the resort than Carnival ships.

A couple sits on a sandy beach at Princess Cays, gazing out towards a Princess Cruises ship anchored in the distance. The rocky shoreline and tranquil sea create a serene backdrop, while the ship adds a sense of adventure to the peaceful scene.
Princess Cays

Half Moon Cay is mainly visited by Carnival, but some Holland America Line ships also visit the island.

Be aware that prices on the island will vary depending on which cruise line you’re visiting with! Cabana rental will be more expensive with Holland America, for example.

Breathtaking aerial view of a Holland America Line cruise ship floating near the expansive, crescent-shaped Half Moon Cay. The ship's grandeur is juxtaposed against the island's vibrant turquoise waters, white sandy beach filled with visitors, and lush green interior, encapsulating the essence of a luxury tropical getaway.
Half Moon Cay

3. Half Moon Cay’s Sands Are Softer

The quality and style of the beaches on both islands is one of the key differences, and this could be one of the main deciding factors for you.

Half Moon Cay has sandy beaches that are known to be very soft – a lot of people find that the beaches here are some of the most luxurious of any destination, and they’re the perfect spot to relax with a cocktail.

The serene coastline of Half Moon Cay, with its pristine white sand and clear, shallow turquoise waters, extends towards a tranquil horizon under a dramatic sky. The few scattered beachgoers and lush greenery in the distance add to the island's peaceful and untouched atmosphere.
Half Moon Cay

The beaches on Princess Cays are a lot harsher, with rocks and shells making up most of the coastline. If you want to wander around the beach, then it’s recommended you at least wear water shoes to protect your soles from cuts and scrapes.

A lifeguard stands under a blue umbrella on a wooden pier at Princess Cays, vigilantly watching over swimmers in the shallow, crystal-clear turquoise waters. In the background, a cruise ship sits majestically on the horizon beneath a vast sky with wispy clouds.
Princess Cays

There are different beach areas to explore including an adults-only one, but the coasts are all similar.

4. Excursion Choices Are Different 

A lot of the excursion options across both resorts are very similar. If you’re someone who wants to try snorkelling, or see stingrays in their natural environment, then you’ll find a good range of options regardless of the destination.

Half Moon Cay then has a wider range of activities to try on the shore, including horse riding (and the option to ride a horse through the sea), bike tours, and some very scenic hikes into the island.

A group of riders on horseback enjoys a leisurely ride along the sun-drenched, sandy shore of Half Moon Cay. The tranquil turquoise sea stretches into the distance, where a cruise ship lies anchored off the coast, framed by the natural beauty of the island's lush pine trees.
Half Moon Cay

Princess Cays instead has a better range of water-based activities outside those typical excursions. You might want to cruise around the coast on a sailboat, try your hand at fishing with expert guide help, or choose a clear-bottom kayak tour to see the underwater wildlife while staying (mostly) dry.

Transparent kayaks rest on the sandy edge of a calm lagoon at Princess Cays, ready for an adventure. The still waters mirror the sky and clouds above, creating a seamless blend of nature's elements, flanked by green foliage on one side.
Princess Cays

5. Princess Cays Has Better Snorkelling

If you love the idea of snorkelling – either as a beginner or a more experienced enthusiast – then choosing a cruise that visits Princess Cays will probably be more rewarding.

There are some wildlife species that you’ll be able to enjoy while snorkelling around Half Moon Cay, but there’s more variety around Princess Cays, despite the resorts only being a few miles apart.

A close-up, split-level view of two kids snorkeling in the clear turquoise waters of Princess Cays, with one child's face partially submerged, looking at the camera through a snorkel mask. The beach resort in the background bustles with activity under a blue sky.
Princess Cays

The rockier shoreline is home to coral reefs and mangroves, which are more accommodating to aquatic species, and this is why there’s just more to see when you snorkel at Princess Cays. 

6. Princess Cays Has More Bugs

There are more varieties of wildlife at Princess Cays than there are Half Moon Cay. Unfortunately, this also extends to the bug species around the resort itself.

One of the bigger drawbacks for people who’ve visited Princess Cays is the amount of bugs they sometimes have to deal with. Make sure you have repellant spray packed with you if you want to minimise the disturbances.

7. Drinks Packages Work Differently At Each Resort

Another important difference between these two destinations is how the drinks work once you’re ashore.

On a cruise to Princess Cays, your drinks package from the cruise ship covers you at the island’s bars. You don’t need to pay for the drinks that you would otherwise enjoy on the ship – they’re still included. If you don’t have a drinks package then you’ll just pay for drinks individually as normal.

George's Bar & Grill, a quaint beachside hut at Princess Cays, welcomes guests with its laid-back ambiance. Patrons can enjoy local flavors under the shade, with a Bahamian flag waving proudly beside a menu board displaying an array of tempting dishes, all against a backdrop of serene lagoon waters.
Princess Cays

That’s not true on Half Moon Cay. You’ll need to either buy your drinks separately, or you can pay for a drinks package specifically for the island – although this is only available for Holland America Guests. Carnival guests just have to pay for the drinks individually. 

A bartender at Half Moon Cay pours a vibrant red cocktail with a smile, capturing the joyful spirit of the tropical getaway. The bar’s casual setting is highlighted by the clear turquoise waters in the background, inviting guests to relax and enjoy the island’s festive atmosphere.

Both destinations have a range of bars serving plenty of drink options, so at least getting served and finding a drink that you like won’t be an issue regardless of your destination.

At both destinations, if you are paying for a drink, you can do so with your room card and the drinks will be charged to your account – no need to carry cash.

8. Princess Cays Has An Adults-Only Area

One feature that Princess Cays has that you won’t find on Half Moon Cay is an adults-only area. The Sanctuary is a little way away from the main beach areas, and has its own private beach space.

A couple walks hand in hand towards the Sanctuary Bungalows at Princess Cays, surrounded by lush tropical foliage. The relaxed ambiance is evident in their casual beachwear and the serene setting, promising a private and tranquil retreat.
Princess Cays

You’ll also find bungalows here for adults only. Bungalows can be hired elsewhere for families, but if you’re looking to stay away from kids and enjoy some quiet time, then choosing a Sanctuary Bunaglow is a better choice.

And Some Key Similarities…

Despite the differences between the islands, there are some important similarities between them too.

Access

Both Half Moon Cay and Princess Cays are tender ports. This means the ship can’t dock, and instead you’ll have to hop on a tender boat to get to shore, and to get back to the ship later.

An impressive Holland America Line cruise ship anchored off a tropical coast, its multiple decks and rows of balconies gleaming under the sun. Tenders ferry passengers to the lush island, promising a day of exploration amid the stunning backdrop of clear blue waters and verdant landscapes.

This does mean it’s a little less convenient for hopping back and forth – both resorts are designed as places you’ll visit for a few hours without interruption.

Dining Options

There’s a great BBQ buffet provided at both resorts for guests to enjoy at lunchtime. It’s completely free too, but it isn’t available all day, so make sure you don’t miss it. Typical serving times are between 11.30 am and 1.30 pm but check as it can vary.

A delicious seafood meal is presented in the foreground with a lobster roll, chips, and a creamy shrimp salad, served on a wooden platter. The tropical ambiance is enhanced by the blurred cruise ship in the background, suggesting a luxurious dining experience by the vibrant turquoise waters.

Half Moon Cay does have a Lobster Shack serving seafood options as well, but these are not included – you’ll need to pay extra for these a la carte items.

Cabana Rentals

Half Moon Cay has cabanas that guests can rent for the day, while Princess Cays has bungalows. The number of each is limited and these often sell out far in advance, so if you want your own private space to relax then make sure you book early.

Colorful bungalows line a sandy path, each with a welcoming front porch and vibrant roofing. Palm trees and lush foliage add to the relaxed atmosphere, while guests unwind and savor the island's serene beauty.

On Half Moon Cay there are even luxurious options that can accommodate larger groups, which include your own private chef from the ship, a butler, a lifeguard and a bartender. However, prices start at $1,600 for the day so be prepared to fork out a hefty sum if this sounds appealing.

Free Leisure Facilities

As well as plenty of hammocks and sun loungers, there are various activities and leisure facilities arranged for guests to enjoy on both Half Moon Cay and Princess Cays, without extra charges. 

A vibrant children's playground slide sits on a white sandy beach, with the clear turquoise sea providing a picturesque backdrop. The bright colors of the play structure add a sense of fun and leisure to the tranquil beach setting.

So if you want to try beach volleyball, or just get a cosy spot on a clamshell daybed with a view out to sea, there isn’t a penny extra to pay.

Shopping

You’ll find plenty of shopping opportunities across both resorts, with local vendors selling craft items and trinkets for you to take home. Unlike the other purchases on the island, you’ll need to pay for these with cash.

A bustling souvenir shop under a bright blue sky offers a colorful array of beachwear, hats, and local crafts. The vibrant merchandise reflects the lively spirit of a tropical vacation, inviting tourists to take a piece of paradise home with them.

At both resorts, you might encounter pushy sellers. If you do, just be firm with them and walk away.

Final Word

Half Moon Cay tends to be the more popular of the destinations for a Carnival private resort thanks to its beautiful sandy beaches (and the lack of annoying bugs), but Princess Cays still has plenty going for it, especially if you like snorkelling.

If you’re cruising with Holland America then it’s likely to be Half Moon Cay you visit on a Caribbean Cruise, while with Princess it’ll be Princess Cays anyway. It’s only on Carnival cruises that you might have a choice, so check out the itineraries available and decide which feels like the better fit for you.

I have some more detailed guides to each resort that you may find helpful:

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Cruise Mummy

Jenni Fielding is the founder of Cruise Mummy. She has worked in the cruise industry since 2015 and has taken over 30 cruises. Now, she helps over 1 million people per month to plan their perfect cruise holidays.

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