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Relaxing on a private island

SmarterTravel

Editor’s note: Erica Silverstein is at sea this week posting about her experiences onboard Carnival’s Fantasy. Follow along from the beginning at the Ship to Shore homepage.

It’s not often that the non-rich-and-famous get to spend the day on a private island. Luckily for us mere mortals, Carnival has acquired a chunk of Bahamian land and agreed to share it with its guests.

Half Moon Cay is a small island in the Bahamas that Carnival has turned into a playground for cruise passengers. The main activities here are lying on the beach and playing in the water. Carnival brings its food service, bartenders, and spa from the ship to the island, so you can eat for free and pay for drinks and water sports with your ship ID card.

My day began with a tender ride from the anchored ship to the island. Each tender seats 275 people and the ride takes five minutes, so I was able to get on the first available tender. When you reach Half Moon Cay, the tender slides into a narrow rock-lined channel that leads to the dock. With land so close on either side, I felt like I was on a water-based amusement ride at Disney World.

A few steps from the dock, a main square is home to a shore-excursion desk, bar, souvenir shops, and a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream stand. I skipped these and pointed myself in the direction of a shady spot on the beach. Shade is not so easy to find; you can either head down the beach, past the spa cabana and water sports shack to find some trees or you can rent a clamshell shade for your lounge chair.

My cool spot gave me an excellent vantage point from which to watch fellow cruisers head out in sunfish sailboats or paddleboats. It was also fairly close to the tree that one unlucky parasailer ended up in. I am not making this up. They had to cut the poor guy out of the parachute and climb back down to the ground. I was also quite close to the food pavilion, which served burgers and hot dogs, salads, and desserts (all included in your cruise fare).

Families might prefer the end of the beach closest to the tender pier. A kids’ water play area consists of several water slides and a sprinkler-cum-fountain. Besides parasailing, shore tours include glass-bottom boat rides, snorkel tours, kayak tours, and a stingray adventure. You can also rent snorkel gear, float mats, and various kinds of water transportation. The snorkel gear did sell out by lunchtime, so if you want to snorkel on your own, you should arrive early or bring your own gear.

I haven’t been on any of the other line’s private islands recently, so I can’t give a helpful comparison. I can say that Half Moon Cay has a lovely beach, and you really could entertain yourself all day with water sports. I would recommend filling up your own water bottles before you get off the ship and possibly bringing your own inflatable tubes or mats to avoid rental fees.

Tonight, for some reason, the Fantasy is celebrating Halloween with a costume competition (did people bring costumes?) and a showing of Friday the 13th. Dinner choices tonight are penne, beef chateaubriand, grouper, quail, a shrimp and seafood dish, and a mixed vegetable dish. So far, I’d say that the food is fine but nothing special, not overly vegetarian friendly, but certainly plentiful.

Tomorrow, stay tuned for Nassau.

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