Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cruise Control: Day 4

Sorry for the lapse in cruise blogging, I had to take a few days off to celebrate my birthday. Maybe I'll get around to talking about that in a day or two once I've dealt with the photos a bit. Suffice it for now to say I had an enjoyable evening of dining and bowling on Friday, and Sunday a few friends made the trek to Grantsville to enjoy some of my dad's cooking.

Anyhow, back to the lecture at hand...

The 4th day of our cruise was probably the most packed with fun and activities, which is saying a lot considering everything we did throughout the week. A new morning found us at a place called Half Moon Cay, a private island owned by the Carnival cruise line. Because this island was not fancy enough to have a pier for docking the boat and disembarking, you had to get on a small ferry (called a "tender") to get over to the island. As we'd signed up for a "Stingray Adventure" excursion, we were able to leave the boat earlier than the general populace.

Half Moon Cay
Arriving at Half Moon Cay

Most of the folks heading over with us had excursions right away, but ours wasn't for a couple hours, so we went over to check out the beach, and were pretty much the only people over there. And what a beach it was. This sand was unlike anything I've seen before. Like flour from your kitchen flour bowl. Nary a rock to be felt. And the water was a spectacular beautiful blue. Quite the place for sure.

Beach Chairs
Our own private beach

Half Moon Cay
Enjoying the beach

Half Moon Cay
All of us with the ship

After we checked out the beach for a while, we headed back towards where we got off the boat to get a quick ride in a packed truck over to our "Stingray Adventure". Upon arriving, we were given snorkel gear and the headed down to a little hut by the shore where we got a little bit of information about the sting ray situation. They had a fenced in area where they had 9 sting rays. We would get 10-15 minutes to go down and snorkel around in that area (while there was a shallow area, most of it was probably 10-15 feet deep) with the sting rays, and then we'd form a big circle in the shallow area and get to see and feed the sting rays up close.

I'd purchased one of those "underwater camera" things to take some pictures during the experience. Upon returning home, I had some issues getting the film to rewind, so I had to open the camera and expose a few of the frames, but overall, with a little fill-light help from Picasa, they turned out fairly well.

With our snorkel gear

Sting Ray w/ Swimmers
Best underwater shot of people and a sting ray

Making a splash

The sting rays are coated in a filmy substance that makes them feel kind of soft and squishy to touch. While we were standing in the circle, they were swimming around our legs and would often squeeze in between two of us to go from outside the circle to inside, or vice versa.

To feed the sting rays they gave us each a small, dead squid to hold in our hands and then the main lady in charge came around with a sting ray and had it suck the squid out of our fist. Kind of a neat experience, but over very quickly, without really getting an idea of what was going on at the time. Another trick they would do with the sting rays was to pull them up out of the water and then the ray would spit water out of its mouth, often at someone (though not intentionally). They also got one of the rays to show off its stinger, located not at the end of its tail, but midway up. In addition to the sting rays, they also had a sea cucumber, a sea star, and a conch that they passed around for us to check out.

Snorkel Brandon
Brandon in his snorkel gear

Feeding the Sting Ray
Feeding the sting ray - if you look close you can see it taking the squid out of my hand

Feeding the Sting Ray
Others feeding the sting ray

After our adventure, which I really felt was worth the $25 we paid, we hiked halfway back across the island to get our lunch, a barbecue provided by the boat's staff at some facilities they had on the island. Kind of a big mess, especially when it came to getting beverages in the world's tiniest cups, but it was livable.

After lunch, we headed back to the beach for more swimming and sunbathing. The beach had tons of chairs and shade devices for relaxing on/in. We did that for another couple hours before finally heading back to the boat. Definitely the best of the two beaches we hung out during the cruise, not that Grand Turk was terrible by any means. Just a good job by Carnival to have the other beach first.

Half Moon Cay
Julie-Ann enjoying the beach

Half Moon Cay Beach
No longer all to ourselves

Brandon and the Shade Machine
Brandon relaxing in the shade

After riding back to the boat on one of the tender ships, we headed back to our rooms to shower and recuperate a bit. Then we headed up to the deck to relax and enjoy a last look at the island before leaving.

Trivia Celebration
Waiting for Brandon to get out of the shower, with my trivia prizes

Half Moon Cay
The guys with Half Moon Cay behind us

Lazy Afternoon
Hanging out on the deck

As we headed out for the evening, the sun was setting next to a nice rainstorm in the distance,

Sunset & Storm
Sunset & Storm


Enjoying the sunset
Enjoying the sunset

Sunset over the Caribbean
Sunset over the Caribbean

Before dinner, we went to another song and dance show in the theater. Then it was off for another delicious dinner. And also, another dance number from our entertaining wait staff.

After dinner, we hung out on the deck for a while. Rather than a movie on the deck that night, there was a big party with lots of fun line dances (Electric Slide, Cha-Cha Slide, Follow the Leader, the money dance, Chicken Dance/Macarena combined together, Cupid Shuffle, probably a couple others) that we took part in. Sadly we don't have any photos or videos from that, but it was definitely one of my favorite parts of the cruise.

Finally, we called it a night and headed off to bed.

No comments: