Our first ports of call in our cruising adventures were in the Bahamas. Our first stop was Nassau, followed by a day at Carnival’s private beach at Half Moon Cay. The Bahamas are an Archipelago in the Caribbean comprised of 700 islands, cays and islets over 100,000 square miles of ocean, and boasting the clearest water on the planet. The infamous Blackbeard and his band of pirates ruled the island until the British took action to suppress piracy and put an end to the Pirate Republic about 50 years before the United States Revolution. The British maintained control of The Bahamas until 1973 when it became an independent Commonwealth realm with Queen Elizabeth II, as its head of state.
Day One – Nassau
Day One started with breakfast at the lido buffet and then we were to meet for our Excursion in the Blue Sapphire Main Show Room. We signed away our lives and left the ship for a day of Snuba and Snorkeling. The walk over to the boat was a little strange. Seemed like they were keeping us fenced off from the locals, but we eventually got out and about. Our Captain and Crew were fun and engaging, but more on that later. The water in the Bahamas is indescribably beautiful. It is so clear that the depth can be deceptive. So we were briefed and given a mask and regulator and thrown to the sea. It did not go well. Breathing underwater did not come naturally to me and my wife. Breathing underwater could not be forced on me and my wife. We just could not get used to the regulator and the discharge of bubbles in our faces. It is not for everyone, but there were plenty of folks that did just fine. In fact, the two girls on our raft (four to a raft) were like fish underwater and were able to dive to the coral reef about 15 feet below.
Our trouble started when our guide unhooked our air hoses and told us to swim back to the boat. After struggling to try and dive for 20 minutes we were a bit winded. The boat didn’t appear that far away, but about halfway back, the struggle became real and we were not wearing life vests . I won’t get into details, but will only say we made it back on board and skipped the snorkeling. Not every excursion will go as planned or dreamed and this was a good lesson for us. We stayed and talked to some other folks that didn’t feel like getting worn out in the water again and the Captain told stories of diving with James Cameron, the director of Titanic. He also told us about Sky Juice which is a frozen concoction of Gin and Coconut Milk and that has led to some other adventures at home that we probably won’t discuss.
According to our captain the only island in the Bahamas with Palm Trees is Gilligan’s Island. Yep, the island that you see in the show’s opening scenes is an island in the Bahamas on which they planted Palm Trees for the effect. I cannot say for sure if this is true, but if anyone wants to fund a research project to inspect the other 699 islands, I would gladly take that challenge.
After spending the day out on the beautiful water, we were dropped at the end of the pier so that we could make our way back past the shops and vendors. To the credit of the crew, they offered to ferry us closer to the ship as well, but we got off and took a walk through the Nassau Straw Market and the surrounding areas looking for a local spot serving authentic Sky Juice and Conch Fritters. We found both in an alleyway lined with various vendors from Cigars to Hair Braiding (everywhere you turn there is hair braiding). At the table next to us was a man in a KY Wildcats hat. Small world I tell you! TIP :Make sure you check prior to ordering as this place only accepted cash. We barely had enough to cover so the tip was a little shy. We were probably being overcharged anyways, but I wasn’t there to argue. The food was good, and the drinks were STRONG. We had what we wanted and headed back to the ship.
Day Two – Half Moon Cay
Day Two would be the second time of the trip that having Faster To The Fun paid for itself. Half Moon Cay is a tender port, so the Ecstasy anchored at sea and had the water shuttles (as they are now called by Carnival) carry us to shore. With the FTTF or VIP package you have priority tendering so we were among the very first to land. There is a small welcome center that can become quite crowded very quickly. So again, being early was a bonus. I had booked a private cabana for the day that included snacks and beverages, snorkeling gear, floats, a fan with mister, padded lounge chairs, a table and chairs, a ceiling fan and a refrigerator. We checked in and they drove us down to our cabana in a cart that was equipped to carry about 12 people. Since we were there so early, there was just one other couple with us and we got to our destination right away.
We were blown away! Our expectations were exceeded by far and this day is one of the single best days of my life. We relaxed the day away while sipping adult beverages delivered by the Carnival waitstaff. Everything is charged to your sail and sign account and the drinks do not count on the CHEERS package. So you do have to pay extra for the drinks, but your drinks don’t count against your daily limit of 15 alcoholic beverages. Most of the cabanas are located far enough down the beach that there is not a large amount of foot traffic between you and the water, making it feel like you are further away than ever from reality. Facilities were conveniently located and the walk to the buffet was beautifully landscaped and clearly marked. The buffet was simple and was prepared and served by the staff of the Ecstasy as well. All in all it was the perfect menu for a summer day in my opinion, but that just means Burgers and Dogs LOL. Get there early as the line can build up quickly and they have been rumored to run out of ice cream.
There seemed to be plenty of activities for all age groups. A play area that catered to smaller kids and a boat to play on for the bigger ones. And for us big big kids, a bar in the pirate ship. ARGHHH But Dawn and I stayed at the cabana or in the water. It was just too relaxing to get caught up in any other activity. We floated and for the first time in days remembered to take lots of pictures. We even did a little video of the cabana in what might be considered our first Vlog. You can’t go wrong with a day at Half Moon Cay, but I would highly suggest the cabanas! And for a bigger group, they have an even larger Villa that has plenty of room and I think it’s own restroom.