A Beach Day in Paradise
Half Moon Cay, Wednesday, January 24, 2018
I remember looking at photos of Half Moon Cay in Holland America Line’s cruise brochures. The water looked impossibly blue, the beach pristinely adorned with white sand. In the distance, a ship is always at anchor on a crystal-clear day. The horizon is so crisp that it forms a vertical line separating land and sea.
Today, guests aboard Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Elation got to experience this Bahamian island paradise for themselves. You may ask why a Carnival ship is calling on Holland America Line’s private island, so here is the answer: Holland America barely uses it, so Carnival swoops in on the days when no “Dam Ship” is scheduled to anchor there. It doesn’t hurt that Carnival Corporation & plc. also owns both companies.
Half Moon Cay was purchased by Holland America back in 1997, and like Carnival Elation, it is celebrating its 20th anniversary of operation this year. Known as Little San Salvador Island, Holland America spent $16 million (after buying the island for $6 million) in facilities and improvements to make Half Moon Cay the award-winning destination it is today. So let’s go ashore and explore!
The best way to get ashore quickly is to purchase one of Carnival’s shore excursions. Thirteen different options are offered, from inexpensive nature walks that run $19.99 per person to the ultimate indulgence, a private, 1620-square foot cabana that can accommodate 12 guests for a flat-rate of $1495 for the day.
I bought the $19.99 Island Bike Tour, partly because I like cycling and have done it on a previous trip to Half Moon Cay, and partly because I felt like the moderate exercise would be good.
Tendering ashore was a simple process: I met in the Mikado Theatre on Deck 8, tickets in hand, and was led out with a large group of folks on other tours. Once you get into the tenders, it’s a quick 10-minute voyage over to the island’s docking area. It helps if you hum the theme to Jurassic Park at this point; the entryway channel is a fairly dramatic squeeze for the island’s tender boats.
Once you get ashore, you have to queue up again at a central ticket booth, where you’ll be provided with your meeting location and time. It’s a bit annoying, as the entire morning up until this point had been nothing but queuing, but that’s how things operate. Just pack your patience and you’ll be fine.
As for the bike ride…I was disappointed. What is billed as a 90-minute tour was over in 50 minutes, and our guide seemingly couldn’t wait to get rid of us. Maybe I’d be all unenthusiastic if I had to do this every Wednesday, too, but more than one of the island’s resident staff I encountered brought the term apathetic to new levels. Even my bike ride felt deflated, until I realized it was: my tires were half flat.
Considering it cost me all of $20, I’m not complaining. I wish, however, that I could have rented a bike for $20, rode it around the island without the unenthusiastic guide, and returned it after the full 90 minutes.
The ho-hum service on Half Moon Cay is especially noticeable given the excellent service that each and every staff member I’ve encountered aboard Carnival Elation provides. One of Carnival’s greatest strengths is its kind and genuine team members, and I have never once had occasion to be anything less than completely pleased with the service I’ve received on any FunShip.