Half Moon Cay is Carnival’s private island. This means that once you get off the ship, your lunch is waiting for you buffet style on the actual island. Having visited Royal Caribbean’s private island Coco Cay last summer, we were hoping for a similar experience. Their island had the food, the beach, great snorkeling and everything readily available as soon as you got off the boat. Unfortunately, this wasn’t quite the case at Half Moon Cay.
To get to Half Moon Cay, you will have to take a tender boat. This process is somewhat lengthy. If you have an excursion, you do have priority on getting off the boat. You meet in the Palladium Lounge and you receive a number. As your number is called, you’re allowed to go down to the gangway to get on the tender boat. The tender boat can hold about 200 or so people and will take you to the island.
Once you get off of the tender boat at Half Moon Cay, you are at the Welcome Center and Marina. This is where you meet the boat for any excursions such as snorkeling or parasailing. In the Welcome Center area you will find a bar, some seating and gift shops.
However, if you’re like most people and ready for lunch, you have quite a hike ahead of you, as you have to walk quite a ways to the BBQ area. This was unexpected for us, as at Coco Cay, everything was right there once you got off the boat. You could quickly get your food and there was no long hike involved. It was all very convenient, not really the case at Half Moon Cay.
Once you got your food from the buffet, there were several dining areas and you sort of wound through bush lined sidewalks looking for them. There were waiters there to clear tables though as quickly as possible, so this was convenient and made finding a place to eat relatively easy once you found empty tables. For drinks, there were separate stations.
The food selections included a cold German potato salad, coleslaw, a cold bean and shrimp salad, hamburgers, hot dogs, jerk chicken and then desserts. The desserts were cookies, brownies (which were too dry and crumbly) and rum cake. Overall I found that the food quality wasn’t as good as it could have been, but the meats were very good. I think that the side items could have been a bit more of a universal flair rather than trying to incorporate cuisine from varying cultures. If you didn’t like the sides, then you just had meat to eat.
We were told earlier by a crew member that Half Moon Cay has the most beautiful beaches and I can’t really argue that. If you are looking for a place to enjoy the beach and the water, then this is definitely the place to do it. The white sand beaches were perfect and clean. There were numerous chairs for free and then there were other rentals available as well such as sailboats, kayaks, paddleboats, mats and tubes. This was a great swimming beach for certain. The water was crystal clear. The one thing it was not good for was snorkeling because there was absolutely nothing to see under the water. The snorkeling at Coco Cay however was fantastic. Saying that, I do remember thinking it was not an ideal “swimming beach” so whichever island you prefer will probably be dictated by this aspect.
The excursions on Half Moon Cay are taken outside of the main beach and swimming areas. They do have transportation available for these, so if you are taking the Horseback Riding excursion, they will transport you to the stables, you’ll take your trail ride and then they will transport you back. The same is true for other excursions located elsewhere on the island. There are also several times for these excursions so you have more flexibility at this stop and you can purchase an excursion once you get to the actual island if you want.
We didn’t purchase any excursions here and basically made it a beach day. We ate, swam, attempted to snorkel and went back to the ship. We did pick up a few souvenirs in the gift shops as well on our way back.