Today would be our first time at Half Moon Cay, or for that matter, any of the many cruise ship private islands in the Caribbean. Since we live on the West Coast we prefer to go to Hawaii instead of the Caribbean since it is about the same distance for us and we can usually find pretty cheap airfares if we travel on the slow days.
The weather was perfect as we approached our hover point as we were in water much too deep to anchor, over 2500 feet, at least if the depth meter by the Explorations Café is accurate. Speaking of the Explorations Café, we discovered that it opens at 7am on normal cruises and regular coffee is $1.95 while on the Grand Voyage the Café opens at 6 and regular coffee is complimentary.
The island was off our port side as we approached giving us a pretty good view from our verandah as we got closer and Half Moon Cay became larger and larger. My first impression was it was much larger than I expected and far more developed. If you didn’t know otherwise you might assume the island was inhabited full time by simply observing the number of structures present. We learned later that there are 3 full time residents who keep an eye on things when there aren’t any ships using the island with the rest of the daily employees being ferried in from an island 45 minutes away.
As the Amsterdam slowed to a stop, the shore side tenders appeared and started to close on the ship. They are designed for cruise ship use and don’t need to use a tender platform, as you load directly onto the upper level from a ships gangway that closes the narrow gap. The boats load very fast and have a capacity of 250 people instead of about 100 for a ship’s tender. Since the tenders are so large and load so fast, there is no need for tender tickets or for priority tendering. Everyone can be accommodated on the next tender.
We were invited to join a fellow guest, Brad Elliot (He has been the craft instructor on other World Cruises) who had reserved the Private Oasis for the day. This is sold as a shore excursion and costs $1,400 which includes catering for 12 people. There are other options that can support larger groups but I don’t have any information on that. I would guess that up to 25 people would be comfortable but beyond that it would start to feel very full. The cost includes a full bar, waiters, cooks and an onsite manager to ensure everything goes smoothly.
Our arrival time was around 8AM and all aboard was 3:30PM. I would be interested in hearing any stories if anyone managed to get left behind here, although I suspect they would send out the search parties to find someone sleeping off in the corner of the island before they would leave. Anyone with a story to share?
Around 10 AM we headed down to the tenders and our timing was wonderful as the tender left only a few minutes after we arrived.
It was a short 8 minute ride to the island and offloading was a breeze. Once ashore there is an HAL staffed information desk and places you can learn more about the many activities to choose from.
Since we were heading to the Private Oasis, we bypassed everything else and went directly to the Oasis, which is a 1620 square foot Cabana with a large table, bar with 8-10 seats, buffet table and a living room style seating area. There is also a hot tub along with a life guard and attendants ready to give you floating mattresses, snorkeling equipment etc. You must remember to bring a towel from the ship which are readily available right before your cruise card is scanned and you get off the ship.
Once we arrived we munched on some snacks and a light salad bar, grabbed a Strawberry Daiquiri and headed down to the spectacular water where we picked up a floating mattress and started our lazy day in the sun, sand and surf. What a joy.
It was now approaching lunch time, where the chefs who are here for the exclusive use of the Private Oasis were busy cooking up a special menu which included some of the standard fare from the standard HAL buffet and a few special items. One of the big surprises, and I am not sure if it is standard or an upgrade, was some GIANT Lobster tails – the biggest I have ever seen – anywhere. They were grilled to absolute perfection which was amazing as my previous experience with large lobster tails was they were typically a little tough as they were hard to cook with the same consistency all the way thru.
We enjoy the generosity of Brad and his wonderful company all day and it was a lot of fun. Brad surprised me with a special gift when he presented me with a printed bound copy of all my blog posts since the cruise began. It was very thoughtful and I appreciated it very much.
The Private Oasis experience was First Class all the way and if you can gather up 12 likeminded people the per person price is a pretty good value for such a luxurious experience.
We headed back to the ship about 2:45 and we were back in our cabins by 3pm.
Sail Away had a decent crowd, but not as large as you may think with a full ship. I suspect most people were still cleaning up from a nice day at the beach. We arrived a little late and there were no longer servers walking around with snacks, so we are not sure what they were serving today.
We discovered that for dinner tonight the rest of the people assigned to our table cancelled their fixed seating and we never saw them. We are now down to 3 people for our 8 place table. We miss our lively table and are working to try and find other guests, but in the meantime we will hunt down guest entertainers and open our table for open seating passengers.
Abba Fab was the featured entertainment tonight. We saw them on the evening we left Funchal and they were so good, we had to see them again, but this time we sat in the second row. The 10 pm show attracted over 200 people – maybe more, so there was a lot more energy in the room. Their show was fantastic with incredible vocals, guitar and piano playing. They plaed several medleys of all the big Abba hits and this is a show not to miss – I saw it twice in less than 2 weeks and am looking forward to seeing them in my hometown of San Diego when they appear in a concert July 21st.
We set our clocks back 1 hour tonight and we are looking forward to our first sea day tomorrow.
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