Well this cruise started very well. The sea was as smooth as a mirror when we approached Half Moon Cay and the sun was happily shining with just a few clouds in the sky. I had been told that we would be the only ship here but when we arrived the Nieuw Amsterdam showed up as well. I should have checked myself as it is clearly on the sailing calendar. With two ships in there could be about 4000 guests ashore but in reality probably no more than 3000 as a lot of our guests have been there already a few times and opted to stay on board. And that means that the island is still very sparsely populated and there will be no fights over beach chairs. There might be a fight over a Bar chair as Captain Morgan, the bar we have inside a pirate ship, is spacious but limited. Only solution to that challenge is to get to the bar as soon as you arrive and not move anymore.
The whole operation of the island is a joint venture between the local Bahamian staff and the crew of the ship or ships that are visiting. The local staff lives partly on the island (those who look after the horses and the island manager) and partly on Eleuthera Island nearby and come by Holland America ferry (The Half Moon Clipper) every morning to the islands. They man part of the retail shops and other outlets, run the tender boats and sightseeing boats, plus provide the security and the transport /infrastructure.
Food and drink comes all from the ship(s) and what is left, goes back to the ships. If there are two ships in, then one ship will provide the food and the other the beverages. The cook-out house for the barbeque and the bars are manned by the ship’s crew and they go ashore with the first tender as soon as the ship is cleared. Although it is our own island, it is still part of the Bahama’s and thus every ship call, a Customs officer comes over from Eleuthera Island to clear the ship. Getting crew and supplies to the island and back needs a lot of coordination but after so many years of doing this, we now go to Half Moon Cay since autumn 1997, the checklists are now so refined that we can almost predict how much the guests will eat and drink and thus plan well in advance.
The Half Moon Clipper arrives alongside the cruise ship(s) upon arrival and then loads everything that has to go ashore for the day onto her aft deck and before the first guest is even ashore, all the food and drink is already there and carted by small tractors to the various food outlets.
We have shore tenders available and if there is only one ship in then they provide the whole shuttle service for the day. This works very well as the capacity is so large that with 4 runs the ship is completely empty. When there are two ships in then there is a pecking order. The largest ship gets the shore tenders; the smaller ship will run its own tender service. With the understanding of course that if the smaller ship has challenges (late arrival, not all ships tenders available) then arrangements are being made to share the burden.
This we also did today. Although there is not much difference, the Nieuw Amsterdam is marginally larger than the Zuiderdam and thus in accordance with protocol she got the shore tenders. But the captain of the Nieuw Amsterdam helped the Zuiderdam by staying farther out, so the Zuiderdam tenders had to cover only a short distance.
Holland America allows no more than two ships at Half Moon Cay together and then you can share the setup. When there are days that there are no HAL ships calling, other ships from the Carnival family can call here and so on occasion we see a Carnival ship popping up. We never see Princess, also part of the family, as they have their own island called Princess Cays. From the ships bridge you can see the ships lying at anchor there. I think it is about 8 miles away from our island. But our island is of course much nicer, not because it is my opinion, but also because Port Hole magazine has said so.
We always stay here until 15.00 hrs. and we try to have all guests back on board by 14.30 so we then still have 30 minutes to round up any stragglers as there are always a few who really do not want to go back. Thus the island manager and his team make a complete sweep of the beach and the accommodation behind it to get everybody back on time.
Tomorrow we are at sea, sailing down the Windward Passage into the Caribbean. The weather will remain fine as per forecast. Just more wind as we enter the Trade Wind zone. Ever heard of POSH??? Not on this cruise………………….