Cycling Half Moon Cay, The Fun Ship Way
“We stopped here for this?”, the kid behind me whined. “I don’t see why we stopped here. There’s, like, nothing here.”
I turned around. The kid couldn’t have been more than 12, but in his mind, he’s already a billionaire CEO driving a Ferrari and clutching a trophy wife – and he doesn’t have time for this whole “island paradise” thing.
“We stopped here to se the snorkelers,” his mother replied. It was said with a note that indicated her growing displeasure in having taken the kids along today.
“The snorkelers’ didn’t come to see us, did they?”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the soundtrack to my mid-morning Eco Bike and Hike Tour around Half Moon Cay, the private island paradise that Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Pride called on today, as our weeklong voyage to the Caribbean hits its halfway point.
With temperatures soaring past 90°F / 32°C (and felt like 100°F/37°C) before ten in the morning, it was hot with a capital “H” outside today – and Schmidt (I named him) and his whining was starting to get to me. He whined at the start of the tour. He wined through the cycle, complaining about the helmet, the bike, the tires, the road, the heat – you name it. He was, to put it bluntly, a miserable little Schmidt.
Half Moon Cay is Holland America Line’s private island in the Bahamas. Purchased back in 1992 and opened in 1997, the line changed the island’s name from Little San Salvador to Half Moon Cay (pronounced key) and has been building it up ever since, with private cabanas for rent (at an extra cost), private villas for rent (extra cost) and a whole host of watersports activities and idyllic options to pass the time.
What’s remarkable about this is that even after all that development, the island is so unspoiled that it is recognized as a Wild Bird Preserve by the Bahamian National Trust.
So why are we – aboard the Carnival Pride – anchored off Half Moon Cay today? The answer is simple: Holland America Line is owned by Carnival Corporation – and Holland America doesn’t maintain a Caribbean presence in the summer months. That leaves Carnival open to utilise the island for its Fun Ship guests. Some Carnival ships do call here in the winter months, but Carnival and Holland America are always careful to schedule their ships on alternating days so as to not wind up with two ships anchored here at once – with two very different types of guests – though it does happen from time to time.
Today, though, it’s just the 2,124 of us aboard Carnival Pride coming ashore today, on huge tender boats that stay on the island. This means the ship doesn’t have to lower her own tender-lifeboats in order to ferry people ashore, which results in fewer lines and happier guests.
Because I did the beach thing yesterday, I wanted to do something different today. Carnival offers a total of 13 different shore excursions for purchase here in Half Moon Cay, nearly all of which can be reserved ahead of time by accessing your cruise booking online on Carnival.com. It’s worth doing so: some of the prime excursions were already long sold out when I went online 45 days before sailing.
Incredibly, the excursions that sell out here are probably worth more than some folks paid for the entire cruise.
There’s the Beach Villa Rental for $499; the Cabana Rental for $279 per Cabana; and the Private Oasis, which goes for an astonishing $1,495 per Oasis. The latter is a 1,620-square foot private enclave with a full barbecue set, a wet bar, men’s-and-women’s changing rooms, and a personal butler, chef, bartender, cabin steward and a lifeguard (good move, Carnival!). Did I mention the eight-person hot tub? For another grand, they’ll fill the whole thing with tequila…just kidding.
My budget isn’t quite as generous. Plus, I’m feeling a bit too sedentary these days for my liking, so I booked the Eco Bike & Hike Tour for a more reasonable $37.99 per person. I love cycling and hiking, and this excursion would allow me to get a better feel for Little San Salvador – er, Half Moon Cay – and burn off some of the calories I will inevitably consume later.
Another good reason to book an excursion in Half Moon Cay: no tender tickets needed! Guests with excursions go ashore first, eliminating the annoying-but-necessary queue for tender tickets on the Lido Deck in order to go ashore without a scheduled excursion today.
Aside from the whiny kid and the breathtaking heat that caused my sunscreen to continually run off my face and into my eyes, I quite enjoyed this tour. It’s not a serious cycle, nor is it a serious hike, but it is physically active, yet still easy enough to do that beginners will find it enjoyable.
The cycling portion of the tour takes place on the island’s paved access roads, and takes riders around to some of the other excursion options (hint, hint!) av