I think most cruise lines that have Caribbean itineraries must own a piece of the Bahamas, some own whole islands, as this one owned by Holland America, others seem to own Cays on a bigger island somewhere. Either way, it’s usually a day before the final disembarkation that the ship slides into it’s own private dock and with only 2000 people or so to spread around, it can even feel a bit remote if you know how to get away from the crowds.
This morning our private island was Half Moon Cay (key), somewhere in the Bahamas. I finally looked on Google Earth to try to get the lay of the land among the sea, but still don’t have a good handle on all of it. This little island is very small, just a few miles across, and very low to the earth. The vegetation is short and scrubby with the only palm trees some newer planted ones around the newer fake West Indies Village.
I didn’t care about all that, though, because today we had pre-arranged our one ship excursion and were going to kayak on the inland lagoon. It was a good day to choose a bit of entertainment, since there wasn’t much else to do on the island except hang on the beach and listen to the music. Have I mentioned music on this cruise? Several bands were conducting our own private beach party by the water and it drew most of the ship’s crowd to that localized area for most of the day.
Deb was excited about the kayak trip, and we both knew there would be plenty of time for music later. We stayed on the top deck to watch the ship pull part way into the bay and see the tenders coming out from shore. These tenders are stored on the island so are much larger than the tenders carried on the ship, with a 25o person capacity. They would run all day at fifteen minute intervals so cruisers could come and go at will.
Once we landed, in no time we were on shore, signed up for our little kayak trip, and told to wait under the shelter for a half hour or so before we would be driven inland. There are pathways and narrow roads, with small open air vans that transport people to various water excursions, including para-sailing, jet-skiing, sailing, all the typical cruise excursion types of activities. We were glad we hadn’t tried to do any snorkeling with the cool temperatures, and high winds. Even kayaking was a bit of an effort in that stiff breeze, but it was still great entertainment.
I have to admit, I felt like I was slogging along the entire time on that heavy, sit-on-top plastic boat, with paddles that weighed five times as much as my slick new Werner’s. Deb and I asked for single boats and two other couples were part of our group in tandems and we set out on the crystal clear lagoon that was landlocked on the island. There were mangrove alleys to explore, but the tide was too low for entry, so we stayed on the main part of the water. Our guide was young, very talkative, and provided a basic view of the island life but didn’t have much knowledge of the actual ecosystem beyond grade school level, so that was a bit disappointing to me. I was there for the boating, however, and managed to have a great time.
Afterward, Deb and I chose to walk the pathways back to the beach and the big island bbq provided for us, with ribs and chicken and all the fixings. It was a decent meal, and I really enjoyed the watermelon and fresh berries. We then ambled down to the beach to find a couple of chairs and sit in the sun. The far end of the beach was quiet enough, but it was getting colder as a storm approached and the winds made it too uncomfortable to think about snorkeling, so we swam a bit and sat in the sun a bit before walking back to the beach party.
I walked to the far end of the beach, watching the people on the horseback riding excursion following the leader along the beach. They advertised riding in the ocean, but I didn’t see them enter once. They looked hot in long jeans and helmets, even on this cool day. Deb had considered the “ride the horse in the ocean” excursion, but we thought better of it and decided to kayak instead. I’m glad we did.
We needed to get back to the ship before 3:30, and the tender line was quite long when we went there at 2:30. It probably took 45 minutes to actually get back on the ship, but standing in line was entertaining while we listened to great music and had interesting conversations with other line-ees.
Once on the ship, we cleaned up, relaxed a bit, and went to the last dinner of the cruise in the dining room. This time we asked for a table for two only, not wanting to have to carry on conversations this evening with anyone but ourselves. It was good we went early, because the dining room filled almost immediately with very large groups of people pulling tables together and raucously celebrating the final night of the cruise. The dinner was excellent as usual, with the obligatory surf and turf meal that is usually offered at least one night on a cruise like this one. I am not a filet lover, and that was the steak on the menu. I also am of the mind that any good steak requires charcoal, so wasn’t too excited about my choice. When it was served, however, with our bottle of truly great Spanish wine, I was impressed. It was butter tender and flavorful even without the smoky flavor I think I require.
As we approached the end of our meal, I asked our waiter if the crew was going to do the dining room dance, the one where all the folks wave their napkins. I know it’s silly after the first time, but Deb hadn’t experienced the first time, and I remember how tickled I was when this happened to me on my first cruise a long time ago. Our waiter said, “No, we don’t do that on a charter cruise like this one. But if you wait just a few minutes there will be a special surprise.” In a few minutes, a few members of our Indonesian dining room staff took center stage in the brilliantly lit stairwell and proceeded to entertain us with a rousing blues tune that they had practiced for two months in readiness for this cruise. They were received with a standing ovation and lots of rowdy calls while several diners jumped up to dance. The small band played a few more songs and then played some of their own local Indonesian music for us as well. It was really sweet, and a real treat, and they were so proud of themselves. I’m glad the blues cruisers were the kind of people to appreciate their efforts and cheer them on. Old travelers can get a bit jaded and hard to impress sometimes. I was glad to see the happiness on their faces and the delight on the diner’s faces as well, including mine.
The dress code for the evening was pajamas. We decided to NOT wear pajamas to dinner, but afterward went to change. I have to admit, I felt truly silly in my pajamas, cute capris though they were, and while many people were wearing all sorts of get-ups, including shorties and big slippers, many people had avoided the pajama thing entirely. I wished I had been one of those, and before long went back to my cabin to change into something a bit more reasonable. It was just too dang early for pajamas.
Many more photos of this blue day on Half Moon Cay are located here.