Paradise found. Half Moon Cay is all that you’d imagine the Caribbean to be. A small virtually desolate crescent island paradise with the clearest turquoise waters & a white sand beach going on for miles. Holland America bought this island for Carnival Cruise to visit. It is amazing!
This island was the most beautiful we visited on our 7 day Eastern Caribbean Cruise. The only unusual challenge about visiting Half Moon Cay is that there is no pier deep enough for the cruise ship to dock. So that means all 2000+ passengers & staff desiring to visit the island most board a small ferry type boat (called a “tender”) to get to the island. This did involve lots of wasted time and waiting to get to the island, but once we arrived on this bit of paradise, you certainly felt it was worth the wait.
We didn’t have an excursion on this island planned as it was the perfect place for the kids to enjoy more sand & sea. There was a waterpark just with kids too – complete with a waterslide instead of a regular slide that was small enough that both my kids were able to safely use it. There was even a kids water area with inflatable sharks, crabs, and alligators for the kids to climb on. Water trampolines for kids to jump off of into the beautiful aqua sea. Just a picture perfect gorgeous setting complete with all the fun you’d want to have.
And visiting the Caribbean in the summer was certainly HOT on Half Moon Cay. It was so hot you had to stay wet constantly. We never even used towels as you’d instantly dry off within seconds of coming out of the water.
So the kids just relaxed in the clear blue waters.
And got hit by quite a few little waves!
Kenzie & I snorkeled again – she wore her vest & goggles as a real snorkel is far too confusing for a 4 yr old. We found an entire underwater field of living conch shells. It was gorgeous. I could dive down and pick some up to show Kenzie too. There was no real reef in the water, but on the rocky edge of the island (near the water park) the water is very shallow but it is a living reef full of rock & coral and tons of brilliant colored tiny fish.
More Tips for Visiting Half Moon Cay:
We did not have any top excursions offered to us on Half Moon Cay, but the Horseback Riding on the beach is the most popular and what I’d love to do if I ever return. I’d save a paid snorkeling trip for another port as horseback riding on a Caribbean beach is such an unusual experience and only one hour long — so you could still enjoy relaxing on the beach. And truly on this cruise we were able to do snorkeling for free in the clear waters on all the beaches we visited (on all 3 islands – Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay, and Freeport at the Wyndham Resort beach excursion)
The beach & waters of Half Moon Cay were ultra crowded -cruise ship style as I like to call it. Again imagine 2000 people getting off the ship at essentially the same time to enjoy this bit of beach. But it was a long beach, so if you want to avoid the crowds it is possible – you just need to walk to the other end of the beach.
There was a definite lack of staff on the beach to help people get shade. I wish they would have had the clamshells for shade set up upon arrival – and then had people who wanted to use them pay for them. Nothing was set up on arrival and there was a total lack of staff to assist. I found this a bit infuriating on our arrival as I was traveling with kids who needed shade & sunscreen applications right away in the 96 degree Caribeean Sun. And if I was paying for this trip, I am certain I would have found it even more aggravating. After waiting 20 minutes and finding zero help & a general lack of staff anywhere to be found on the beach, I helped myself to a clamshell that I was lucky to find & set it up on our own. Audrey, my girlfriend, paid te $17 fee for a clamshell on their arrival and it was not set up at their chairs for almost another 2 hours. So my strategy of setting it up on my own worked out for us. But be prepared for a lack of staff on the beach, but the gorgeous surroundings will certainly make your anger or frustrations at a lack of beach staff dissipate quickly.
If I visit again, I’d probably rent a cabana on Half Moon Cay for $225 for the day on the beach – this would enable us instant shade, cushioned chairs, and staff to handle our requests. Even better, they seemed to count renting cabanas as an island excursion, so those passengers were able to get an earlier boat to Half Moon Cay in the morning. My kids wake at the crack of dawn so we were just waiting for our boat to the island – and had to wait in a waiting area for for about 75 minutes after getting a “boat ticket” to actually board the island.
Disclosure: Yes, Carnival Cruise Lines did pay for our travel expenses – we are feeling very lucky and appreciative to have been offered this experience. As always, I share the real dish & all thoughts and opinions are our own.