I really hoped Half Moon Cay would redeem itself on this year’s visit. On last year’s Holland America Westerdam cruise we sailed in under sunny skies on a bright blue sea. This year the Carnival Liberty arrived in the dark blue waters of heavy winds and stormy seas. After nearly canceling the tenders, they finally ran when switched to the opposite side of the boat. Loading people on took a bit of effort with the tender bobbing wildly up and down and thumping loudly into the side of the boat. The crew had some painting to do at the next port where the tenders rubbed black tire marks on and paint off. Crews from cruise ships are often spotted painting anchor chain rub lines, tender scrapes, or anything else that mars the pristine appearance of their ship whenever it docks.
Last year we tried the horseback by land and sea excursion, disappointed when the horses didn’t actually swim. Then we rented snorkel gear, only to get herded to shore by a life guard just as we got out far enough to spot a stingray. Parasailing saved our day though as the wonderful boat crew gave us an excellent ride, catering to all our wishes in search of interesting photos. I had an extra-long ride as John took photos that appeared as if I would land on the ship or skim the water. Sometimes I even remembered to put the camera down and actually look around to enjoy the view. This time the parasail boats stayed tied firmly to the dock. With winds at 30 knots, nobody could go up safely.
We tried to wait long enough for the crowed to thin before catching a tender to shore, but with the slow-moving process that did not happen. Waiting in the lounge with the rest of the people with tender stickers displaying numbers indicating when their turn to go to shore would come according to the time they had arrived, we thought it might be nice if they had provided some sort of entertainment. A family-friendly comedian perhaps, or some sort of cruise trivia similar to what movie theaters do with movie trivia on the screen to entertain the early arrivers before the movie starts. Most of the passengers seemed to manage to entertain themselves though, even the kids sat quietly other than the noise from their handheld video games.
Finally our number got called and we headed down to the door where they let people board the smaller boat. On the way into the dock at Half Moon Cay, the tender crunched into the rock wall lining the narrow channel to the tender pier. Apparently unharmed, it continued on its way after the crew pushed it off the wall. It docked in a different spot this year. Last year we got off from the side of the tender. Now they built a new dock where they could just open up the front of the boat and let the crowd pour out. This definitely speeds up the process of getting people on and off the tender on the shore end of things. There’s nothing anyone could do about the weather slowing things down on the ship.
We checked the large map posted on a sign at the entrance to the island to make sure we remembered where to find the snorkel area we had discovered on a paper map after returning to the Westerdam last year. Then we followed the path to the island barbeque. Last year we had a busy schedule and never took the time to eat. This time we wanted to give the very popular lunch a try. The menu included garden burgers, along with hot dogs, hamburgers, jerked chicken and an assortment of side dishes, fresh fruit, and desserts. The garden burgers tasted quite good. We had enough lunch to not want dinner later that night on the ship.
After lunch we investigated the pirate ship bar, which had been under construction last year. We found lots of places to take pictures, mostly of the Liberty. As we exited through the door on the beach side, the same crew member who announces the comedy show started getting a hairy man contest going. Several contestants came right away, whether of their own accord or talked into it by their companions. It looked like the crowd had a good time with that, but we did not stay to watch. Instead we set off down the beach toward the snorkel area, armed with our own snorkel gear we bought online prior to this trip. It’s getting quite a bit of use. I just need to get some of that mask defogger they had on the snorkel boat at Grand Cayman.
The map showed the snorkel area just past the Private Oasis Cabana. We dropped our bags on a beach chair and entered the water near the kid’s playground. We swam out to the area where we saw other people snorkeling. It looks like someone has added some structure to the bottom there in hopes of creating fish habitat or some sort of artificial reef. Several piles of branches and some suspiciously manmade looking rocks with lots of nooks and crannies for fish to hide seemed to do the job quite nicely as we saw several schools of pretty good sized fish.
Overall, we had more fun at Half Moon Cay this year. Better yet we did not spend any money there. Considering we had now entered the second half of a back-to-back cruise, we felt a bit tapped out on funds for shore excursions on this round. A lot of people opt just to lie on the beach. A pretty good option for people who like that sort of thing considering the white sand, blue water, and abundant supply of beach chairs lining a long stretch of beach in neat tidy rows. Some passengers enjoy lying on the beach at every port stop, but we normally prefer to do something.
Temperatures at Half Moon Cay range from 68 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. The language (as in all of the Bahamas) is English and because a cruise line owns this island, the ship’s sign & sail card works as currency for any purchases made in its shopping area.
Other shore excursions offered at Half Moon Cay include private cabana rentals, glass bottomed boat rides or offshore snorkeling, biking or guided walking tours around the island, fishing, stingray adventure, kayaking, an eco lagoon tour, or riding a personal watercraft.
We came back to the ship in wet swimsuits, so we decided to take a trip or two down the waterslide. Then we went to sit in the adults-only hot tub on the serenity deck (a popular choice with our shipmates as well.) We loved the Serenity deck. Great view from the hot tub there.
That night the ship rocked us to sleep as we left the Bahamas, making our way toward St. Thomas. We woke up the next morning to blue skies and far less motion from the ship. Usually these large boats don’t rock too much, but we have seen it before occasionally when the seas get rough. It’s pretty funny watching other passengers stagger down the halls like a bunch of drunks, even if you are doing it yourself. Rough seas really show off the talent of the performers in the stage show when none of them fall as the stage bobs up and down throughout their act.