HALF MOON CAY
As soon as we arrived at the FTTF customer service desk and told them we were ready to head over to HMC, they immediately told us to "follow me" and off we went, down the back way, around the crowd and onto the boat. Pretty cool.
Now I had pre-warned Kendra, my oldest daughter, that we would not be waiting on them to get their tender tickets and wait to be called...since we had the VIP FTTF and all...yes, I rubbed it in since she had been rubbing in the slot win. Hey, I'm allowed right? I told her to get off the tender and head left toward the "ship".
When we got on the tender, they were calling tender tickets 6-11 at that time. So, no we were not the first off the ship, but I was ok with that. Hey, we were busy getting our bellies full at the time.
The ride was very short and we were pulling in to this little area that looked like it had been a canal carved out for their entrance. (NCL has the same thing now since they have re-vamped their private island). They had canon's pointed toward us...I'm not sure if this is welcoming or telling us to behave while there or they'll feed us to the pirates. Let's just say that I DID NOT BEHAVE.
I glanced over at the beach area while pulling in and was busy snapping pictures. There were several boats in the tender area. Now the tender ride over took us 3 minutes to get there and get this....it actually took them 5 MINUTES TO PARK!!! Like seriously. Longer to park than the ride over. I just had to laugh.
You can tell they are still working on the island and also improving it (not that I personally know what the island looked like before...but what private island isn't always getting constant improvements)?
Info: Half Moon Cay is also known as Little San Salvador Island. It is a private island, owned by Holland America Line, and is used as a port of call for the cruise ships. Prior to being owned by HAL, it was the private island of Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL).
It is located about 10 miles southeast of Nassau. The island was purchased in 1996 for $6 million USD and has 50 developed acres.
This island is a tender port.
The entrance with the actual name of the island on it.
Now I just wanted to give you all a little history lesson... maybe??? Half Moon Cay is actually called Little (or Fort) San Salvador (as shown in the picture above when you enter). This island was actually owned by NCL and use to be their private island until it was purchased by Holland America in 1996... or at least that's what I read online. Anyone know this to be true? It really has me wondering since the first time I ever cruise was back in 1989 and it was with NCL and I SWEAR that the private island they have now (Great Stirrup Cay) seems nothing like it is now...and by nothing I mean I remember soft beautiful sand (and it does not have that now) and I definitely do not remember any type of huge rocks sticking out of the water as it is now (and I mean rocks that couldn't have been just placed there). It makes me wonder if I have been to this place before? Or maybe they didn't use this place back then even if they owned it? I have no clue. Just wondering if anyone actually knows other than reading it online.
We got off and headed into the port shopping area.
It was small and to me seemed like it had just been developed recently...or either they planned it that way.
Can anyone confirm if you are allowed to walk up the steps at the bright yellow building to get pictures of the area? Just wondering. I didn't do it for fear of being shot by one of the canon's coming in. I did like the building and the color they used. It kinda reminded me of the Costa Maya port with the architecture and color.
Ok, so let's be honest here...I really did not spend any time here at the shopping area when I arrived. Seriously...most of you know me around here and I'm a beach/water freak (and so is Sakari)...we got off the boat, passed all the up and headed straight for the beach!!!
However, for the sake of the review, I will go ahead and give you the pictures of this small shopping port area now just to get it out of the way. We visited it on the way back to the ship (kicking and screaming I might add) and that's when a majority of these pictures were taken.
There was a tiny shop that I visited to grab me a HMC tee shirt and NO MAGNET!! Gasp! Sigh. Ok, this would be the first time I was not able to get Sakari a magnet for her collection with the name of the place.
I must have really liked this conch shell wall thingymabob...I took enough pictures of it. I guess it was the only neat thing there to begin with. Palm tree shadows, because everyone loves a palm tree right?There's another reminder for me...this had to be a sign (a canon).
Ok let's get to the nitty gritty and head out toward the beach where we (I) all wanna be. We stepped out onto the sand and ahhhhh, it was so soft and fluffy and the water was so beautiful. The beach was absolutely stunning.
We walked toward the pirate ship and looked for a place. The hubby got a little burned yesterday, so he wanted the shade. Now...I will state this...we hardly ever rent anything when we are on a beach. We hardly even get beach chairs if they are not free. I can put my beach towel down on the sand and be perfectly happy sitting or laying there. I know some people have to have a chair or lounger and some have to have an umbrella...not me. I could care less. I'm not going to spend any amount of time there to begin with so why bother. We have rented a chair and umbrella and shared it once I believe and that was only because Kendra and her bf was with us and insisted. So, we don't know the first thing about how this works with the rentals.
However, the hubby was insisting shade and he knew that he wanted a clam shell. We stopped and ask a staff member that was running up and down the beach about renting one and if we did that with him. He said no, that there would be someone that came by to rent it from and pick one. So pick one we did.We set up shop and daddy was happy for his shade and Sakari could care less and only wanted to head to the water.
Since Sakari was chompin' at the bit to get in the water and driving me nuts about it I lathered her up with the slimy cream cheese wannabe spread from the ship...just kidding, spf 9084 and then laughed and told her I needed to take a picture of my masterpiece first before we went down to the water. We touched the water and yikes...cold. The water was absolutely GORGEOUS! Even daddy adventured into the cold water to get cooled off. He went back to his lounging and I adventured the rest of the way into the water.
I was still busy taking it all in and I turned around and seen the hubby leave our camp and head toward the pirate ship. I thought either a) he needed to find the restroom or b) he needed to find a drink or c) he was out looking how to rent the cabana. (c won)
He walked down to the last cabana and I watch him walk up the steps with everyone at the cabana kinda starring at him in amazement like he was invading their space (and he was unknowingly) and I'm sitting here thinking "can he honestly think this is a restroom or something?". I see them point toward the pirate ship. Ahhh, I bet he felt silly. LOL
I decided to get out of the water for a few and get a drink.
**I came up with a brilliant idea...after so many years of cruising I'm not sure why I hadn't thought of this before... but I have a small material cooler, that I have always used when I go out to the pool or to the park for our pop. I decided I would take this along with us this time, take some plastic baggies, have the room steward (who graciously filled both baggies each morning with ice for us for the port) fill the bags with ice, put 4 pops in the cooler and put the ice in the bags around it (eliminating any melting and dripping inside the cooler). We had free drinks for the day. GO ME! They stayed ICE COLD all day long and when we were done with the cooler, we threw the rest of the ice out and the cooler actually folds up and velcros real small and back in our bag it goes. BRILLIANT I TELL YA! I will be doing this from now on on every cruise and save $$!!!****
So anyhow, I'm getting a drink and waiting for the hubby to return so that I can make fun of him for going into someone's cabana. Now here's where things get hairy and I start to lose my cool....
A kid comes over to me (around 7 years old or so) and says "You have to rent these cabanas". Um...ok. Which is what I said and then said "thank you". He stood there starring at me. I said "Do you need something else?" He said "You need to go find the person to rent this cabana." Um...ok again. Who is this kid? The cabana police? I said "My husband is doing that but thanks for your concern." He continued to say it over and over a few times...so at this point I'm getting a little perturbed with him and I just started saying "THANK YOU!!! THANK YOU!!! THANK YOU!!! Are you done?" So he walked away.
He went back to his family who had a bunch of people both adults and kids that had taken up the first few rows of chairs down by the beach. I see the father get up and look at me. What the heck? He's walking my way. He repeats what his son said. At this point I'm more than tired of this lecture and I say "Can you tell me why this is any of your concern? My husband has been trying to rent one since we sat down. He has ask several employees and he went looking for someone...Now tell me why this concerns you and why are you making it your business what we are doing?" His reply is "Because we just rented this one a minute ago." UM OK.....Now I'm more than hot and I'm about to lose my temper and that doesn't happen often when on vacation...my happy go lucky is not so happy go lucky now. So of course at this point I have a firm mean voice going and I say "OUT OF ALL.....(pointing profusely) these cabana's up and down this beach and all these located right here (about 5-6 of them) YOU decided to pick the ONE that WE are sitting at and have already set up our things???" We had our bags there, our towels on the chairs, our snorkeling equipment all over pulled out, our cooler out, suntan lotion out and was all comfortable and THIS is the cabana he decided he wanted??? Seriously? How f'n rude! The cabana beside us to the left wasn't good enough? Or the one after that? Or the cabana on the right wasn't good enough? Or any after that? There wasn't ANYONE in ANY of them. But NO, he wanted OURS!!! His reply was "well, we just paid for THIS one and I have my receipt." I let him know how pissed off I was and said whatever...I'll move over one, but you won't be happy.
The hubby came back with his paid receipt for the cabana and the guy ask us which we wanted and we moved over just 1...which actually was a better location because we could now see down the pathway between the chairs to the water easier and set up camp AGAIN.
The family that purchased the cabana brought some of their things over and the little boy that first approached me to let me know "the rules" sat in the chair beside me and faced me starring the entire time. At one point he said "What's that?" when I was messing with something and just starred. Seriously annoying. I took our blowed up raft and wedged it between our cabanas to block him off a little. Most of the time they continued to stay down at all the chairs they had saved by the water. Obviously these are the chair hogs of the ship as well.
Now I'm usually a pretty easy going person, most know that about me, but when you do something like this...I'm sorry, it's rude, it's not nice and that makes me not nice.
Ok, end of rant and we are set up at our new camp.
Back to enjoying the view and to playing in the water.
Time to do some exploring.
Some of the colorful houses there for rent.
Heading up to the pirate boat to take some interesting pictures.
Inside the boat is the bar and also restrooms and then I headed upstairs for some pictures as well. A boat with a view...and a nice view at that.
Then I headed outside and to the back of the boat for some final pictures.
Walking around the grounds. I headed back to our new camp and told the hubby it was time to eat and I had found where they are serving food while I was out walking around. Sakari was more than ready to eat and had already ask us several times already about it.
We kept hearing a rooster cockadoodledoo and we headed that way. The pictures shows one of the MANY areas to eat at. The one thing I really liked about this place was so many area's to eat in, it felt secluded and had nice landscaping around it. The only problem was that if you didn't pay attention to where you were sitting, you would get lost getting back....and I did.
There were plenty of chickens running around (is this lunch?) and they had chicks running around as well. One got lost from it's momma and Sakari was there to rescue it.
The buffet area had lots of sections for many lines. We got our plates loaded with food and headed to an area to eat, winding our way to the perfect spot.The chickens came over and of course Sakari had to feed them.
Now the food was "ok" but the hamburgers were just not good. I don't know what it was about them but the texture was just weird to me. Was I use to Guys? Sakari bit into hers (and she's a hamburger freak) and this was the result...I about gagged.
At one point I decided to go back to one of the many drink stations and Sakari wanted me to grab some more of the yummy cookies.
Well, that would be the time I discovered that I had went down the winding path to...I don't know. I was lost. Every turn I made was the wrong shelter. It took me awhile, but I finally made it back. Whew.
After our bellies were full we headed back to our camp and then out to the water.
I thought it was really weird that we had been there for a good 3+ hours and never ran into Kendra yet. I just KNEW she had probably got off the tender, hit the beach and stopped where she seen the kiddie water park area and planted it.
I told the hubby I wanted to go for "a walk". My intentions were to head that way and attempt to find her. We no more got a good 20' away and there she was walking down the beach looking for us. Yep, I was right, she set up camp right by the kids park as I had thought. I just knew it! She said she had walked all the way past us before and never seen us. I informed her that it was lunch time and we had just eaten and she decided to head up there to grab a few plates for her and Brayden and bring them back to the camp.
Meanwhile, we entertained the kids in the water some more. Sakari practiced blowing heart bubbles in the water.
I really wish we had decided to take pictures of us and the ship in the background when we first got there. It would have made for such a nice picture. But now the beaches and the water was crowded.
Since Kendra and Braydens thing were still down at their camp, Brayden didn't have his goggles and I had let him borrow mine. I decided I would take a selfie in the water...only with sunglasses on. How many people have this kinda picture? LOL
It was beyond crowded now...
I had told the hubby that I would really like to spend some of our time prior to returning to the ship over by the kiddie water park area. I knew Sakari would like it...and well, I seen some ROCKS over there at the wall. hehe You all know what I'm thinking....snorkel time.
We headed that way.
The kids headed for the water slide. It didn't work any better than the one on the ship. Just saying...The smaller one worked a little better.
Me and Kendra decided to draw in the sand. Sakari helping some random lady on the beach dig her way to China. The hole was pretty deep. Since it was Easter, we were drawing Easter eggs. Kendra decided to make some 3D sand eggs. We were having a blast.
I found a wall and I knew it was calling my name. There were little crabs in the holes that liked to play hide and seek with you. They won every time. Nope, I didn't get any pictures of not one of them.
There were fishes following us as they always do everywhere we go.
On to the snorkeling. Now I really really ended up liking this area. I liked it so much by the end of the day that I had almost wished we had just stayed in this area the entire time. I'm sure I probably would have felt differently had I actually been there from the beginning because I'm sure that most people get off the tender and do just that...pick that spot and stop. I can only imagine how crowded it probably was in the beginning.
I actually couldn't believe the things that I see in this area. It's not really known for a snorkeling area, but it did surprise me and I was pretty happy with the things that I did see there, even if it wasn't too much or a reef. There's always something to see anywhere you go.
This was so cool. I don't think I have ever seen an anemone like this one before.
So I want to take some time to talk about this snorkeling area. One would not think that there's much here, but I was pretty satisfied with it and it made for a good day. There was plenty to see along the wall with soft coral and fish and there were a few things out in the water as well.
What made it really nice is that you could stand up in all of it...even the munchkins. So they were able to snorkel with us and see everything that we did...without a life jacket. That meant no arguing with Sakari over how she's a "big girl" and didn't need one.
The hubby didn't have his goggles with him so he kinda just stood up and walked along pointing out things to me and I'd go under and take the picture. We came up with a "plan" and it worked out pretty darn good if I say so myself. He made the mistake of saying to me "I'm your assistant and I'm at your disposal" HA HA (I said in my Vincent Price laugh). So here's the plan...I'm going to lay down in the water in a floating position. You are going to grab my legs and kinda push me along slowly. If I give you a hand signal or a jerk of the legs, you stop. I'm taking pictures. Another jerk of the leg means move again. hehe It worked out perfect. I saved energy (lol) and he was able to keep me really still while I focused on the pictures and (he claims) the view was one of the best from where he was standing. wink wink He said he'd be my assistant "any time you need me to be". Geesh, men.
A huge school of fish that were darting in every direction all synchronized together as if they had planned it that way was going by. There were hundreds of them.
This entire area was up and down the rocks at the beginning. It's that area close to where you rent the expensive cabana/house with the slide into the water. They had that area roped off and we went down the wall, around the roped area, then back to the other side and down that wall.
I love feather dusters aka worms. I use to have an entire aquarium full of them. One quick movement and they suck themselves back into their stem. Then slowly and gently come back out.
The hubby tapped me on the rump and told me I was being watched...I had to laugh and then snap a picture of course.
Do you see anything? It's another flat flounder fish with the eyes on the top. I'm telling you, they are just everywhere...you just have to look.
Another one of my many attempts to get a good shot of an underwater/overwater picture. It just wasn't happening this cruise. The water just had too much motion.
Kendra took off on her own for a minute and came back telling me she had found a few reef balls. Now the only other place I have seen these (and there were hundreds) was in November at Paradise Cove/Dead Mans Reef in Freeport. I went over to explore.
We only found (I think) 3 of them thank goodness. So you were able to swim around them and not get trapped like you do at Paradise Cove.
There was a momma fish in this one and every time we came near, she darted out of there and then darted toward us. She was very protective of it. I didn't notice because I didn't want to disturb her, but Kendra said there were little black things around the holes. I figured those were her eggs she was protecting.
We had our snorkeling fun and decided we had better pack up our things and start to head back if we planned on stopping by the shopping area and getting something before leaving.
A lot of people were already gone by now and the place was starting to look deserted. The workers there were already stacking the chairs up (just like they do on the ship) in the area we were in.
Kendra had brought her rolling gym bag luggage, that we both have one of to use to carry on our pop for each cruise, and she was struggling to pull it in the the sand. Great idea not having to carry a beach bag, but I'm not so sure about having to pull it in sand and then the sand being stuck in the wheels.
We headed back to this place where I would purchase a tee shirt and a lady put a shell bracelet in a small paper bag and handed it to Sakari.Then off we went toward the tenders. There was a small line waiting for the tender and it was now 4pm.
The tender came and on we went. We waited and waited and waited...
The started bringing the staff on with us and food and rolling carts. Were we the last tender of the day? We didn't pull away until 4:30pm, so I guess we were.
I ended up moving down to make room for others and ended up with the worse spot to take pictures while leaving and arriving to the ship.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS ON HALF MOON CAY:
This place was gorgeous. The sand was so soft and powdery. The water was perfect and crystal clear.
The grounds were well taken care of and I loved the little pathways and landscaping.
I loved the way they had different shelters to eat at (I just wish there was an easier way to tell them apart so you don't get lost).
The pavilion where you get your food was huge and plenty of different areas with the same food so it didn't get congested.
They had plenty of drink stations instead of just one.
The pirate ship was a nice added touch. There were people enjoying the bar inside, but no one upstairs. I believe it would just be too darn hot to sit up there in the sun. But, I loved how they had the jagged cut outs in it for some awesome pictures of the ship and beach.
The shops and port area was small, but nice and it didn't feel like you were in a "touristy" spot by having it that way.
The colorful houses and cabanas made it look "Bahamian" and was a nice added touch with the bold colors.
The snorkeling, even though it was a sandy beach, was pretty awesome and plenty to see along the wall.
The kids park, well nothing major, but the kids sure did enjoy it, so an added plus.
So obviously I liked the place. I would have loved to see a little more of it or even toured the area, but it made for a free day and hey, I like free. (Well other than the $25 for the clamshell rental).
I would ABSOLUTELY love to go here again. I have heard people talk about this place for years now saying it's their favorite. While it's not my "favorite" it's definitely ranked up there with the best and a "gotta go back again some day" place for sure.
Did I like it more than NCL's Great Stirrup Cay? I think I did actually. When I ask Kendra about it, she said she liked GSC better but couldn't give me a reason why. Hmmm. I'm not really sure. I know that I would like to return to both and then try to make a decision again.
When I book again with Carnival, if it goes here, it will definitely influence my decision.
This place wins hands down over Grand Turk any day and it's just what I was expecting.