Cycling Half Moon Cay, The Fun Ship Way

Carnival Pride at anchor off Half Moon Cay on August 18, 2016. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Carnival Pride at anchor off Half Moon Cay on August 18, 2016. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

“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?”

Using the island's tender boats saves time over using the ship's own tender/lifeboats, which makes for a faster trip ashore. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Using the island’s tender boats saves time over using the ship’s own tender/lifeboats, which makes for a faster trip ashore. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

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 LinesCarnival 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, so named for its half-moon-shaped beach. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Half Moon Cay, so named for its half-moon-shaped beach. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

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.

Welcome to Half Moon Cay - Carnival Corporation's private island in the Bahamas! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Welcome to Half Moon Cay – Carnival Corporation’s private island in the Bahamas! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Once ashore on Half Moon Cay, you have to exchange your shore excursion tickets and sign waivers at this booth, which creates some frustratingly-long lineups. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Once ashore on Half Moon Cay, you have to exchange your shore excursion tickets and sign waivers at this booth, which creates some frustratingly-long lineups. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

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, I went on a cycling and hiking excursion around the island...

Today, I went on a cycling and hiking excursion around the island…

...while others rode horses both on land and sea. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…while others rode horses both on land and sea. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Other ways to spend your day on Half Moon Cay: taking a sea-doo excursion...Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Other ways to spend your day on Half Moon Cay: taking a sea-doo excursion…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

...or swimming with the stingrays. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…or swimming with the stingrays. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

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.

Cycling the backroads of Half Moon Cay. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Cycling the backroads of Half Moon Cay. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

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.

Our cycle took us to see other excursions in progress, and other parts of the island. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Our cycle took us to see other excursions in progress, and other parts of the island. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Tropical flowers are littered throughout the island. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Tropical flowers are littered throughout the island. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

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.

The waters at Half Moon Cay are out of this world - no saturation or sharpening required! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

The waters at Half Moon Cay are out of this world – no saturation or sharpening required! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

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!) available on the island. I quite enjoyed seeing the horseback riding, sea-doo and snorkelling excursions up-close; horseback riding looked hot, but I’d probably splurge for the sea-doos next time; they looked like a lot of fun.

Our hike took us up 60 feet from sea level...Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Our hike took us up 60 feet from sea level…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

...to the top of the island. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…to the top of the island. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Our “hike” traversed all of 60 feet from sea level to the highest point of the island. It’s not a difficult hike by any means, though you should be aware the terrain is uneven and has loose rocks and dirt and the like. The biggest obstacle was the extreme heat, which bore down on us unabated.

Still, the views from this “peak” on the island are quite good, and I was pleased that we got an overview of just how much there is to see and do here.

Carnival is also putting on a number of other on-shore activities today, since we’re docked here until 5:00 p.m, including an Island Lunch beach barbecue served up between 11:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.

It's not a difficult hike by any means, and is accessible to beginners. But there is some loose terrain you should be aware of. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

It’s not a difficult hike by any means, and is accessible to beginners. But there is some loose terrain you should be aware of. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

The biggest challenge on the hike wasn't the terrain, but the heat, which seemed to rise 10 degrees inside the forest canopy. Bring plenty of water! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

The biggest challenge on the hike wasn’t the terrain, but the heat, which seemed to rise 10 degrees inside the forest canopy. Bring plenty of water! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Also on-tap: A Beach Party (10:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m); Very Hairy Chest Contest (1:00 p.m.), Lifeguard Run (2:00 p.m.), Sack Races (2:30 p.m.), and Sand Castles in the Sun on the Beach (3:30 p.m.)

Re-boarding the island's tender boats...Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Re-boarding the island’s tender boats…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

...and heading back along the cut to the open ocean and Carnival Pride. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…and heading back along the cut to the open ocean and Carnival Pride. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Carnival Pride at anchor off Half Moon Cay. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Carnival Pride at anchor off Half Moon Cay. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Most guests stayed ashore until the all-aboard time, which involved taking the last tender from the island bound for the ship at 4:15 p.m. On days like this, though, I like to come back to the ship early and enjoy its relatively calm desertedness. I did just that this afternoon, sampling a pint of Carnival’s own Thirstyfrog Red ale in the Red Frog Pub on Deck 2.

This evening prior to dinner in the Normandie Restaurant, I visited the mixologists at the Alchemy Bar on Deck 2, who whipped me up a custom libation. I’ve always liked the Alchemy Bar on my Carnival cruises, but this one is exceptional – all the mixologists here are tremendous, crafting drinks based on your own personal preferences.

The Alchemy Bar, Deck 2, facing aft. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

The Alchemy Bar, Deck 2, facing aft. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Tonight's prescription in the Alchemy Bar, Deck 2 aft. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Tonight’s prescription in the Alchemy Bar, Deck 2 aft. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Mixing a drink in Alchemy: first the ingredients (that you choose) are poured in. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Mixing a drink in Alchemy: first the ingredients (that you choose) are poured in. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Add a touch of flare, like this singed orange peel...Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Add a touch of flare, like this singed orange peel…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

...and you've got the perfect, hand-crafted cocktail at sea. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…and you’ve got the perfect, hand-crafted cocktail at sea. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Is it the best bar on the ship? I think so. In fact, these off-menu cocktails are some of the best I’ve had on any cruise ship, ever.

Our run to Freeport, Bahamas is a short one tonight. Still, there’s plenty of ways to pass the time on Carnival Pride – like another late-night deck party out under the stars.

Up on deck, the party gets started yet again. There's a lot of fun to be had here onboard! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Up on deck, the party gets started yet again. There’s a lot of fun to be had here onboard! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Goodnight! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Goodnight! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Our Live Voyage Report aboard Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Pride will continue tomorrow from Freeport, Bahamas! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog.

Carnival Pride - Eastern Caribbean from Baltimore

DAYPORTARRIVEDEPART
Sunday, August 14, 2016Baltimore, MDEmbark Carnival Pride4:30 PM
Monday, August 15At Sea
Tuesday, August 16At Sea
Wednesday, August 17Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos8:00 AM2:30 PM
Thursday, August 18Half Moon Cay, Bahamas8:00 AM5:00 PM
Friday, August 19Freeport, Bahamas7:00 AM1:30 PM
Saturday, August 20At Sea
Sunday, August 21Baltimore, MD07:00Disembark
 

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