Peking Duck Over Half Moon Cay

December 19, 2007 -

John Heald

What’s the first thing you think of when you here the world Holland?…………..clogs, windmills, cheese, bicycles, Heidi?…………..well you would be right and I bet none of you said Chinese food………..yep, Chinese food and I just had the best Chinese food I have ever eaten ……….in Amsterdam at a restaurant called Dynasty………..correct me if I am wong…….I mean wrong……….but this was the very finest I have ever eaten. I had scallops in a special sauce that only Chef Woo knows the ingredients of and for main course Heidi and I shared the best Peking Duck this side of……well…….Peking.

So, hello from Holland where Heidi and I have come for two days to visit her Mum before Christmas. For some strange reason this blog will feature an eclectic menu of bits and pieces although I will be talking a lot about the environment and we start………..here in Holland. On landing at the world’s cleanest and most organized airport that is Amsterdam’s Schiphol (the luggage retrieval system is second to none) Heidi and I headed for the rent a car desk. We were met by a Dutch lady who had the unfortunate name was proudly displayed on her Avis nametag. Sonja Van Crapper – that really was her name …………by the way Heidi told me that it was a very common name in Holland and actually means a canal lock or crossing……….I was immediately put in the dog house when seeing Sonja’s name I asked her if she knew where the nearest toilet was. ………after the blow to the ribs I received from Heidi, we were asked what car we would like to have within the range we had booked.

Amongst the choices of our Premium Booking was a Toyota Pireus or Pireaus or anyway a Toyota and Sonja the Canal Crossing explained that this was part of their Green Range. Now, I was going to ask if this meant that it ran on well……..manure……..or …….well …….her last name………….but I decided against it and said that we would take the Toyota.

Now, I admit that I am a red meat eating, cigar smoking, Aston Martin dreaming sort of guy and environmental issues have not been on the top of my list of things to worry about while on vacation and my carbon footprint is the size of a Russian Shot Putters thigh. So, as we drove of in this battery, electrical, running on yak droppings car thingy I had no idea what to expect………..and you know what…………..it drove…………..like a car……….a normal ordinary car.

Now don’t get me wrong…………I still want a 30-ounce prime rib covered in lashings of Aston Martin sauce……….but even though we drove all over Holland the petrol gauge never moved and my carbon footprint was reduced a few sizes……………certainly it is something to think about. Now, here is the news from the BBC………..Bloggers Broadcasting Company.

The Carnival Pride has long been one of our most popular vessels and I really think her popularity is about to increase even further when you read the following.

Carnival Pride to Kick Off Schedule of Seven-Day Caribbean Cruises from Miami in Spring 2009

12/17/2007

MIAMI (December 14, 2007) – Carnival Cruise Lines’ 2,124-passenger Carnival Pride will operate a series of seven-day eastern and western Caribbean cruises from Miami beginning in April 2009.
Three different week-long itineraries will be offered on this unique program, which will run through August 2009.

Carnival Pride’s seven-day program from Miami kicks off April 11, 2009, with a week-long cruise to the popular eastern Caribbean destinations of San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas/St. John, U.S.V.I.; and St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles.

Carnival Pride will then operate a series of seven-day western Caribbean cruises from Miami to Cozumel, Mexico; George Town, Grand Cayman; and Ocho Rios, Jamaica departing April 18, May 2, 16, and 30, June 13 and 27, July 11 and 25 and Aug. 8 and 22, 2009.

Also included in the program is a series of seven-day eastern Caribbean cruises calling at the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay; St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos Islands. Departure dates include April 25, May 9 and 23, June 6 and 20, July 4 and 18, and Aug. 1, 15, and 29, 2009.

14-Day Panama Canal Cruise, Special One-Time Six-Day Voyage
Prior to these voyages, Carnival Pride will operate a special 14-day Panama Canal cruise departing Long Beach, Calif., March 22 and arriving Miami April 5, 2009. Featured ports include Manzanillo, Mexico; and Puntarenas, Costa Rica; prior to the Panama Canal transit; followed by Cartagena, Colombia; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; and George Town, Grand Cayman. Carnival Pride will then operate a special one-time six-day cruise from Miami April 5-11, 2009, calling at Key West, Fla., George Town Grand Cayman; and Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

Innovative Design, Wide-Ranging Amenities and Facilities
Carnival Pride, which entered service in 2002, is the second in the line’s highly successful “Spirit-class” and offers features such as an intimate reservations-only supper club at the top level of a soaring 10-deck-high atrium, indoor and outdoor promenades, a winter garden, a wedding chapel and a sleek hull design and interior layout that leads guests from one public area to the next in a seamless flow.
The ship also offers 16 lounges and bars, including a wine bar, sports bar, piano bar, two-level dance club and a 1,200-set theater showcasing lavish revues. Extensive facilities for children and teens – part of the line’s popular “Camp Carnival” and “Club O2” programs, respectively – are also available.
Also featured is a 14,500-square-foot Spa Carnival health and fitness center with dedicated exercise space, sophisticated equipment, private treatment rooms, and more. An Internet café, Wi-Fi access and cell phone service are available, as well.

Eighty percent of the vessel’s staterooms have an ocean view, and 80 percent of those have verandahs — providing an intimate and private venue for enjoying views of spectacular Caribbean destinations. All staterooms feature the Carnival Comfort Bed sleep system with plush mattresses, luxurious duvets and high quality linens and pillows.
Reservations are currently being accepted for the Carnival Pride’s 2009 seven-day cruises from Miami, as well as the 14-day Panama Canal cruise.
For additional information and reservations, contact any travel agent, call 1-800-CARNIVAL or visit carnival.com.

Can you sing? Do you love Karaoke? Fancy a load of cash and a free Carnival Fun Vacation…………then read this.

Buzz On! Carnival rocks the airwaves on NBC’s The Singing Bee

Part variety show, part singing competition, and a whole bunch o’ fun. No, it’s not the return of Nick & Jessica ­ it’s Singing Bee, NBC’s new reality show that’s guaranteed to take the karaoke world by storm. The best part of all?

Contestants will be competing for a 7-day vacation aboard Carnival and $50,000 in cold hard cash.. not bad for a few bars of ‘Jessie’s Girl.’ Tune into NBC on December 21 or visit nbc.com/The_Singing_Bee  for details.

OK, its time to move on and answer some questions that you have asked me so here we go.

I have read all your comments and really thank you all for taking the time to write. Now, I did ask that anyone who needed an instant reply to start their comments with the words JOHN PLEASE REPLY and those are the ones I will concentrate on but will do my best to write to you all as well. To skip the Q&A, click here.

SOUTHERN DREAMS – wishing you and Charlie a very happy Christmas a wonderful holiday season.
KIRSTEN L – Your Christmas ornaments sound divine and I hope you and your family enjoy this special time together.
LISA AND ELAINE – Hello Ladies. Unfortunately the recommended stores will not ship to the states from the islands of the Caribbean, etc. as it is illegal to do so. However, many people do box and ship liquor using the US postal service and this is something that maybe you can arrange to do from islands like St. Thomas and Puerto Rico which of course have U.S. postal offices. Or………you can just drink it yourself and that way you don’t have to pay any duty on it as well. Hope this helps and a have a wonderful holiday season and Merry Christmas.
BIG ED – Hello mate. It won’t belong now before we get to meet for the first time but I already feel like we are old friends. I remember when I was young and we could not afford a real tree and we were too poor to but tinsel so my grandfather would come over and sneeze over it………….see you soon mate and may I wish you and Mrs. Big Ed the most wonderful Christmas.
LINDA HERNACKI – Linda, how great to read your latest posting. I will be writing about the gifts you all sent in a moment and I did not realise that you could indeed get sugar-free jam……certainly have never seen it here in the UK. I know you would love to have been on the bloggers cruise and hopefully you and Mike will join me on the next one. I promise to tell you all about it during and after the cruise. Have a wonderful Christmas and I hope it is full of wonderful gifts for you from Mike ………. maybe a light bulb?
NANETTE – I would like to wish you and the family a wonderful Navidad . I know there have been some sad times for you this year Nani but hopefully you will have some much-needed family time this Christmas. I will look forward to seeing you on the Carnival Liberty next year…………maybe…….yes maybe I will be there……..we shall see. Muchos Hugos and Felice Navidad.
KEVIN – HEIDI AND BETH – Hello you three. Firstly, please tell your friend who is booked on the trans-Atlantic cruise that they can write with any questions they may have and I will be there. I will let you know about the bloggers cruise for 2009 very soon. May I wish you all a very merry Christmas and I hope the three of you have a spiffing time together.
RETIREMENTMAN – Hello Sir and I had to check that this was you as usually your blogger thingy has your name and not Retirmentman………although that does make you sound sort of Super Heroish. Paul, you asked for a photo of Heidi and I and your wish is my command. I will have one taken by our tree and if you could send Roberto the e-mail address for me to send it to I will of course do so. Congratulations on writing your own blog and I am sure it will be a wonderful way for people to see as I do that you are a truly wonderful man. Please have a fantastic Christmas and the same for all your family.
BETTYBOOP1BIGKAHUNA – Before I start, what is a Kahuna? I am sorry that I missed your last post and how wonderful to hear how much you enjoyed the David Dingle interview and also your high praise of Ocho Rios, Jamaica. It seems you have so many choices for the next time you cruise and although the Bloggers Cruise for 2009 is nearly ready to be announced, certainly the Baltic season on the Carnival Liberty is one I really cannot recommend enough………Please write to me if you are still undecided and I will answer any questions you may have as soon as I can. Until then have a wonderful holiday season and Heidi and I wish you a merry Christmas.
KEVIN – Hello mate. During the last few days I have eaten so many great meals and I know as the brilliant Chef you are you would have enjoyed them all as well. Maybe one day we will get to enjoy a great meal together. I know being CD for the entire ship may not be the best thing but I promise I will have lots of time to socialize a lot. I will not be involved in the running of the shipboard stuff and the travel talks and tours etc will be conducted by someone else thus allowing me to spend more time with you all. I know you are disappointed that you cannot join us but next time I know we shall be together. I am sure that you are also cooking a wonderful dinner for Christmas and I hope you and the family have a wonderful time together. Merry Christmas mate.
LOOKING FORWARD TO THE SMOKE FREE CARNIVAL FREEDOM – Thanks for the fun….as always……posting and for allowing me the splendid opportunity to wish you and Mrs. MTSFP a super Christmas and see you in Italy in 2009.
VICKI – The good news is that yes, I will be the Cruise Director on your Carnival Freedom Cruise Critic cruise……………let me know if you need anything and see you soon. Merry Christmas.
MYRA BUSHNELL – The poem was fantastic and I loved it all but the line that shall long stay in the memory is “Upon his handsome, manly form.”…………yep, that’s me, handsome and manly! I know that must have taken you lots of time and I am truly honoured. Alan continues to get better and better and it’s a wonderful Xmas gift for us all. Thanks again and may I wish you and your family a wonderful holiday season and Merry Christmas.
LAUREN – Sorry I could not make your birthday lunch and as always I love the New York sense of humour. I hope you had a great birthday and I am sure there will be some “leftovers” and we shall distribute accordingly. Have a wonderful Christmas and once again……….happy birthday.
BILL – ZYDECOCRUISER – The Gumbo sounds great and thanks also for the Todd English report. Having eaten in his establishment on the Queen Victoria, I cannot recommend this man enough……….even if he is too handsome to be a chef. So, what are you cooking for your New Orleans Christmas feast? Whatever it is I hope you and the family have a great time together. Merry Christmas mate.
ROBIN IN NEW YORK – Hello Robin. You asked where the three Cunard ships will be docked in New York on January 13. They will, I am sure, be docked in down town Manhattan at pier 20 or close by. This is by the old U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier that is there. I forget her name but I am sure someone else will tell you the name of that ship…………Kevin, Paul, DWA ?? Anyway, if you do get a chance please go as the sight of those ships together will be incomparable. As for the constant mention of Sabrina in my Queen Victoria blog………….well, that was payback for Heidi’s obvious infatuation over Chef Todd English…….who to me needs a smack with a soup ladle. Have a wonderful Christmas and please if you can, go see the three Queens.

OK, I have to stop………….why so soon I hear you cry. Well, our flight back to the UK leaves in a few hours and we have to return the Toyota thingy to Miss Crapper plus I want to get this blog posted ASAP. I will finish answering ALL the comments tomorrow (Wednesday) and post them tomorrow night I promise starting with Frank C.

Now, the other reason I wanted to post this blog thingy tonight before I fly is because of this special interview. One of the most popular destinations for Carnival guests is the unspoiled paradise of Half Moon Cay, Holland America’s private island refuge. Here then is an old mate of mine to tell us all about it. We worked together for some years and I can honestly say that he was and continues to be a great ambassador for cruising. Please then sit back and enjoy an interview with Mr. Matt Sams.

1. PLEASE CAN YOU TELL US ALL ABOUT YOUR CAREER IN THE INDUSTRY SO FAR? I joined Carnival Cruise Lines in 1985 as an Operations Supervisor. I held positions such as Assistant Operations Manager, Operations Manager, and Director of Port Operations. During my time at CCL, I was in charge of all port operations, interior dry dock repairs, major refurbishments and interior designs of existing vessels, shore excursion operations, new buildings of Jubilee, Celebration, on board revenue. I joined Holland America Line on May 13, 1997, to become the vice president of Caribbean relations.
Half Moon Cay
2. WHAT DOES YOUR CURRENT POSITION INVOLVE? My current position is Vice President- Caribbean Relations for Holland America Line. My responsibilities include the negotiations and relationships with all government agencies, port authorities and private sectors for the Caribbean, Central America, South America, the Bahamas, and Florida. I also oversee the development and operation of Half Moon Cay, Holland America’s private island. I also work with Carnival Corporation on special projects.
Half Moon Cay
3. YOU HAVE BEEN RESPONSIBLE FOR THE MAGNIFICENT SUCCESS THAT IS HALF MOON CAY. BEFORE WE TALK ABOUT HOW THE ISLAND LOOKS NOW WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT WHAT IS INVOLVED IN PURCHASING AN ISLAND AND HOW IT WAS WHEN YOU TOOK POSSESSION? Half Moon Cay, located less than 100 miles southeast of Nassau, was conceived to provide an indigenous Caribbean island experience in an authentic natural setting to Holland America Line guests on Caribbean and Panama Canal itineraries. As an award-winning island, Half Moon Cay is our highest rated port call in the Caribbean and one of the highest in the world. What makes it so special is that it really represents the quintessential private island image for most travelers. Sandy beaches, aquamarine waters, no one else around, and we’ve added the fantastic service of our shipboard staff and the locals that assist with shore activities. Each year, the island’s stellar reputation keeps growing and we are excited about celebrating our 10th year of visiting the island this year. It was officially opened on December 12, 1997, by Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham.
Amenities that were required to support ship visits included food and beverage facilities, shops, restrooms and other various support facilities. The island’s offerings have steadily expanded to also provide a full beachside water park for children, private beach cabanas and an array of shore excursions that include horseback riding by land and sea, personal watercraft adventures and an opportunity to swim with stingrays.
In December 1996, Holland America Line purchased the uninhabited 2,400-acre island of Little San Salvador from several Bahamian owners for $6 million and debuted Half Moon Cay as a port of call Dec. 12, 1997. The line initially invested $16 million in the facility – which today is situated on approximately 50 acres – and developed it according to the guidelines of the Business Charter for Sustainable Development established by the International Chamber of Commerce.
The island was uninhabited and there was no infrastructure whatsoever. In May 1997, I joined Holland America Line. Construction of Half Moon Cay began that same month and completed in December 1997. Due to the topography of the island, we needed to raise the developed areas by 14 feet in order to be above the flood plane. A marina was dredged and constructed in order to allow safe tender operation and shore excursion vessel departures. All mechanical systems such as electrical generators, reverse osmosis water plants, sewer treatment and incineration plants needed to be installed in order to accommodate our guests.
There’s a lot to do on the island. The idyllic Bahamian island offers extraordinary activities, such as its horseback riding and swimming excursion, guided AquaTrax watercraft tour, stingray adventure, bicycle tour of island highlights, and fun-filled family aqua park. In addition, guests can enjoy excursions including catch-and-release deep sea fishing trips, eco tours by glass-bottom boat, kayak trips and parasailing. Or they can simply relax on the crescent-shaped, white sand beach, swim, snorkel and sail in the turquoise waters, indulge in a beachside massage, enjoy traditional barbecue fare and play volleyball.
Half Moon Cay also features a walking trail and a designated wild bird reserve. All facilities are accessible to persons using wheelchairs, featuring hard-surfaced pathways to connect venues. Beach and jitney trams facilitate getting around the island.
We offer an open-air market, ice cream parlor, ships, first aid station, several bars and beverage stations, sports area, a chapel for wedding renewals, and an array of watersports equipment to rent — kayaks, sailboards, snorkel gear, floating mats, and those fun aquabikes. One of the most popular features is the barbecue area, where we hold a lunch barbecue for guests on the island. Ribs, fish, burgers, sausage, salads, fruit, corn on the cob, brownies, cookies and more. I’m getting hungry thinking about it.
And for anyone wanting to have a real exclusive experience on the island, there are 15 beachfront cabanas for rent, and one Grand Cabana. The beachfront cabanas have air conditioning, misting station, dining table and four chairs, lounge chairs, changing room, refrigerator, dry bar, fresh water shower, and sun deck. Optional Butler and Drink packages are also available. The Grand Cabana accommodates 24 guests and is perfect for a large family or small group. This cabana has a hot tub for 8, 2 changing rooms, his and hers rest rooms, fresh hot water showers, misting stations, dining room, wet bar, BBQ grill, covered and outdoor seating, massage table. Optional food and beverage packages are available for the Grand Cabana as well.
Half Moon Cay
4. CAN YOU DESCRIBE A TYPICAL DAY ON HALF MOON CAY FOR OUR CRUISE SHIP GUESTS? WHAT FACILITIES DOES THE ISLAND OFFER AND WHAT CAN THE GUESTS ENJOY? Guests motor from the cruise ship via state-of-the-art shore tenders. These tenders are designed to safely and efficiently offer a quick transit too and from the island. Once on the island, guests have a wide variety of choices. The island has 9 miles of beach so finding a secluded area is not a problem. Guests enjoy the lounge chairs, hammocks, clamshell sunshades, shaded sitting areas and the natural beauty of the island. There is a water park for the kids to enjoy, while mom and dad watch them from shore. Often, guests arrive and mingle in the open-air market a bit. They then wander to the beach for a few hours to swim and relax. And about noon, the open sitting BBQ luncheon is very popular. Of course, many folks opt for shore activities in the morning or afternoon, too.
Half Moon Cay
5. HOW IS THE ISLAND MANAGED, HOW MANY STAFF IS INVOLVED IN ITS RUNNING? More than 110 Bahamians operate the island. This group is in charge of all of the maintenance of the island, technical areas, landscaping, shore excursions, vessel captains, crew, staff and guides, lifeguards, tram drivers, engineers, mechanics, chef, straw market vendors, secretary, police, customs and island managers.
Half Moon Cay
6. WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES OF OWNING AN ISLAND? Location, location, location. The island does not have the benefit of having a hardware store, or super market. Every piece of material arrives by cruise ship, cargo ship, or seaplane. So, while the middle of the Caribbean Sea sounds great to a lot of folks, after about three weeks, you wonder when the next ship will arrive. Half Moon is in a great location: remote yet accessible by boat and seaplane as required and only a day’s cruising from South Florida.
Half Moon Cay
7. I KNOW YOU WORK VERY CLOSELY WITH A WONDERFUL ORGANIZATION CALLED THE FCCA? WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THEM AND THE WORK THEY DO? The Florida Caribbean Cruise Association, or FCCA, is a trade organization made up of 11 major cruise lines. The FCCA is a conduit to assist the cruise lines in communicating with the governments and the private organizations and businesses in the Caribbean region regarding a wide variety of issues. Currently, I am serving as the Chairman of the Operations Committee for a second 2-year term. Micky Arison, is the Chairman of the FCCA. It provides a wonderful forum to discuss common issues, challenges, and solutions.
8. FINALLY, IF YOU LIVED ON HALF MOON CAY ALONE FOR A YEAR WHAT WOULD YOU TAKE WITH YOU?
ONE MOVIE
Swiss Family Robinson, the original Disney version.

ONE BOOK
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe.

ONE LUXURY ITEM
Biodegradable Toilet Paper

ONE CD
Jimmy Buffet’s greatest hits

ONE SUPERMODEL OR ACTRESS
My wife of 23 years, Michelle, who I met on a cruise to Alaska in 1979.
I was 17, she was 15.

Thanks Matt, and for the thousands of guests who have visited Half Moon Cay and those many thousands who will, that was a wonderful insight to what is an unmissable port of call…………..great answer as well with the supermodel question! Thanks again, Matt, on behalf of us all.

We were talking about the environment and seriously it is, of course, a most serious issue not just on land but of course within our industry as well.

Some years ago we onboard we ……………… were ……well……….not so educated when it came to the environment and we certainly could have done more to protect our oceans and seas, along with the rest of the industry. I’m pleased to say that today Carnival Corporation is now at the forefront of environmental protection. The crew, every single one of them regardless of position, are trained in this area and as you know each ship has a dedicated environmental officer onboard whose position is as important as anyone’s. Hopefully, cruise ship guests will see how seriously we are taking this subject and will assist us in our goals………….maybe one day there will be a cruise ship that runs on electricity, battery power or the fuel provided by the guests……….with me and Big Ed onboard there should be enough fuel to get us to Australia and back.

One last thing before I fly out. I have a HUGE box of gifts and cards………..there must be over 500 cards….from you………..my blogging friends. These were sent to the ship and to Chris in the office and have been sent to me. Now, if I was king of my castle I would have opened them all now, however Heidi’s word is unanimous and she says we will open them on Christmas day…………………bugger. However, in advance thanks to all of you and I will post photo evidence of the grand opening on Christmas Day.

OK, time to go and fly again…………I hate to say this but the only airline that flies into my local airport is Easy Jet…………yes…………the airline I said I would never fly again……….so once again I will climb onboard a plane with seats so small and service so bad that the word Easy in the title is well…………fill in the blank. When I am rich and famous, the first thing I will by is after an Aston Martin and a private island is a private plane with extra wide seats, cabin staff that look like Halle Berry ( my new favorite ) and the colour orange will not be visible anywhere.

So, that’s it for now and think of me flying the friendly skies in a seat that by the end of the one hour flight will I think smell of Peking Duck.

Goodnight

Your Friends

John and Heidi

Hi, I’m John, and this is my blog. So please don’t mistake my opinions — or those of my dear friends, fans or commenters — for those of Carnival Cruise Line or Carnival Corporation. My apologies in advance for anything I may say that upsets you, but this disclaimer covers Carnival and puts the blame directly on me………….. bugger.