Recovering from Grand Turk
Grand Turk had been everything we’d hoped it would be, near-death experience aside. The Carnival Pride pulled out of port at 2:00, leaving us a good part of the afternoon to recover from our adventure by relaxing on the Serenity deck with banana daiquiris and contemplate things to do on Half Moon Cay. Because we were in lazy mode this cruise, we opted to continue our unwinding mission on the beach.
That evening we went to dinner, where the hostess sat us in the same section as the previous night. The waiter remembered my Conundrum wine and brought me a glass right away, much to my delight. We drank Grey Goose VX martinis at the Alchemy bar, and then headed to the Red Frog Rum bar to rock out with the band and say hello to our favorite bartenders. We hung out pretty late, because the next day at Half Moon Cay would be a relaxing beach day and we would not be in a rush to head off of the ship.
We also ordered room service – a turkey sandwich, a grilled cheese sandwich, and some wings. The sandwiches were free and tasted meh, but the wings cost $ and were FANTASTIC. Since our last cruise on Carnival, there has been a bit of controversy about a new policy to charge for room service from 10 PM to 6 AM. This was pretty short-lived, as the blowback on social media was quite fast and furious. They have since modified it. Here is the latest iteration of Carnival’s room service menu.
The next morning, we got our buffet breakfast, packed our beach bags, and headed down to wait for the tender. Not all cruise ports have a dock at which to pull up, so the ships will drop anchor and shuttle guests back and forth to shore on smaller boats, called tenders. Many cruise lines will have you report to a certain location on board to pick up a tender number, in an effort at crowd control. When you hear your tender number called, you report to the tendering station.
Since we had Faster to the Fun for this cruise, we fell under the priority umbrella. Priority guests usually have a separate location to report to, where Carnival staff will escort you straight to the tender. We had to go to the Butterflies lounge (where the comedy club was on most nights), and from there we were taken onto the tender.
A quick ride took us to the dock at Half Moon Cay. I know a lot of words in a couple of different languages, but I’m hard-pressed to come up with adequate words to describe just how beautiful this tiny, privately-owed island is. They really hit the jackpot with this one.
Half Moon Cay At A Glance
Half Moon Cay, also known as Little San Salvador, is one of the hundreds of islands in the Bahamas. Carnival has owned is since 1996. It’s not really developed outside of the beach area, the lunch facilities, play areas, and a small shopping area. There is also a sweet little chapel. Most people take a beach day, but you can also take a hike, do some bird watching, buy a Carnival excursion on water or land, shop at the straw market, or hang out at the pirate ship bar. Take note, though: The Cheers! Program does NOT work on Half Moon Cay. You will have to give up your folio number in order to purchase any beverages, and your sign and sail account will be charged. Bummer.
Once we got off of the tender, we made our way to the trail that runs parallel to the beach and walked down a little ways to a section of the beach that we figured would be less crowded. We like people, but we hate crowds, but we also like to be close to the bathrooms. We scouted out a spot under a tree that would provide us with some shade, plopped our butts in a couple of lounge chairs, and proceed to veg out while taking in the stunning tableau.
Half Moon Cay has possibly the most beautiful Caribbean beach I’ve ever been on – and I’ve been on my fair share of Caribbean beaches. The sand is a soft, powdery white, and the placid water is a shockingly clear, crystal blue. There are no rocks, and the sea floor is smooth and easy to navigate across. You get outstanding views no matter where you look. So, we took a while to simply take it all in and bask in the glorious weather in this glorious place.
Eventually, I went for a swim, and the water is not only beautiful in its appearance, but in its temperature. I get cold quite easily, and I love it when a body of water is the perfect level of warm. This was the case at Half Moon Cay on that day. I was in heaven! I watched schools of fish dart by my legs, and just floated and relaxed. Gene eventually joined me, and we had a fantastic time.
At some point hunger called, so I got a cover-up on and we headed to the island lunch buffet. This is included in the cost of the cruise, and it’s pretty good for a standard barbecue situation. We loaded up on chicken, pasta salad, tossed salad, and some other goodies, found a spot at a table in one of the many covered shelters they provide to eat in, and went to town. Shortly thereafter, we were back on the beach, cat-napping, reading, listening to music, and watching the black chickens parade around.
We headed back to the tender station at about 3:00 in the afternoon, so as to beat the rush back to the ship. Once we got back on board, we lounged on the Serenity deck with drinks and discussed how we would spend the evening . This amounted to dinner in the Normandie Dining Room, a visit to the Red Frog Rum Bar, and watching Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War on Lido deck. Good times!
Things To Do in Half Moon Cay Other Than Lie on the Beach
- Snorkeling – Carnival offers an excursion, but you can also snorkel on your own.
- Horseback Riding – Offered as an excursion through Carnival.
- Biking/Hiking – You can take a tour through Carnival that includes on or the other, or both. You may also hike on your own.
- Get a massage – offered by the onboard spa staff in an air-conditioned cabana.
- Play games – There is a basketball court on the island, as well as a playground for the children. Various sports gear is available for rental.
- Watch birds – there are about 50 species of birds on Half Moon Cay, according to Majestic Feathers. I post this list in honor of Doc Lavia, my English teacher at Moorestown Friends School, and the most passionate birder I’ve ever met: http://www.majesticfeathers.com/brochures/2013/Half%20Moon%20Cay%202013.pdf
- Interact with sting rays – another Carnival excursion.
- Rent a boat – Carnival rents out Hobie cats and sailboats at their water sports centers on the island.
- Get your hair braided – Bahamas residents come to the island to share this part of their culture with cruise passengers.
- Shop – There is a Carnival-owned gift shop on the island, which accepts sign and sail cards. There is also a straw market with wares sold by “locals,” which take cash. US dollars are fine here.
BONUS: Luxuriate in a cabana or the private oasis.
Carnival has 15 cabanas which it rents out under the excursions on its website. These are a hot commodity and sell out quick! These cabanas are air-conditioned and equipped with furniture, floating mats, a shower, a refrigerator, and are fully stocked with snacks and the beverages of your choice when you arrive. The rental cost of about $360 (cost varies per sailing and cruise line, since Holland America also stops at Half Moon Cay) covers up to 4 occupants, but extra guests can be added for a surcharge.
Half Moon Cay also offers Beach Villas for a rental fee of about $600 for up to 8 guests, with a surcharge for any extra guests up to a total of 18 people. These are two-story cabanas that have all of the same features at the smaller ones, with the added benefit of a hot tub, snorkel gear, and of course extra space to lounge around in. There are five beach villas, so snag one quickly if you want one. If you spend too much time pondering, you will miss out.
The Private Oasis is a super-sized cabana, at 1,620 square feet (that’s the size of my actual house!), that will accommodate up to 12 people. Up to 24 people can enjoy the private oasis, though, for an extra-person surcharge. It’s pricey, at about $1,600 for the day for 12, plus the surcharge for any extra guests, but it includes open bar with a bartender, a ton of food, private lifeguard, butler service, a personal chef, a cabana steward, indoor and outdoor showers, a hot tub, and a personal water slide into the sparkling blue water.
Everyone seems to think that the private oasis cabana is well worth the money, but there is only one on the island; so if you want to snag it, you have to make sure you book it as soon as your cruise is booked, if it’s available. I would love to experience the private oasis, but it will have to wait until we’re cruising with a big group of family and friends, so that we can split the cost. Otherwise, it’s too rich for my public-servant blood. I MAY be able to convince Gene to get a cabana one day, but I feel like we need to go big or go home.
Thanks for reading this post about things to do on Half Moon Cay. I hope that when you go, you will have the best possible time in whatever style that suits you. Be sure to check out our other posts on our Carnival Pride cruise here.