Sun and Sand in Grand Turk
At 8:00 a.m., Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Pride came alongside our first port of call on our weeklong cruise to the Eastern Caribbean: the port of Grand Turk, in the Turks & Caicos islands.
Although the island of Grand Turk is just seven miles (11 kilometres) long and barely one mile (1.5 kilometres) wide, it is still the largest of the islands that make up the collective known as the Turks & Caicos. With a permanent population of less than 4,000 inhabitants, it still exudes the laid-back, easy-going island lifestyle that you might expect of a place where white sandy beaches give way to crystal-clear waters and coral reefs.
But Grand Turk also has quite the history: its southern tip may have been Christopher Columbus’ first landing point in the Americas in 1492, and the island was the splashdown point for John Glenn’s Mercury 7 spacecraft, Friendship 7, on February 20, 1962.
Located on the southwest corner of the island is the port we’re docked in today. The Grand Turk Cruise Port is a $50-million-dollar development that was completed by Carnival Corporation PLC in 2006. As such, you won’t see a lot of Royal Caribbean ships docking here (though MSC does call here often with its MSC Divina.)
While other Carnival lines call here in the winter months, during the summer this is exclusively Fun Ship territory. Though we’re docked here on our own today, Carnival Conquest, Carnival Glory, Carnival Magic, Carnival Sensation, Carnival Splendor, Carnival Sunshine and Carnival Valor are all scheduled to stop here during the month of August.
So the port is manufactured specifically for cruise ships – but it’s a pretty manufactured port. You can swim in the waters within sight of your cruise ship, have a cold beer on the beach, walk in the surf, or get your retail therapy on in the “town” shopping square that also includes a pool and a Flowrider surfing simulator. And, of course, a Margaritaville.
Of course, you can also have an adventure, too. On my sailing, Carnival is offering a total of 31 different shore excursions here in Grand Turk, designed to fit a wide range of interests, activity levels, and budgets.
The least expensive of these is the Grand Turk Flowrider Experience ($29.99 per person), while the costliest tour is the five-hour, $134.99 per person Ultimate Land and Sea Adventure that includes a tour to the Grand Turk Lighthouse; a trip to the Adrenaline High Wire Challenge and Zipline; a dune-buggy adventure; snorkelling and a coastal boat ride to round things out.
I’m doing excursions in Half Moon Cay and Freeport over the next two days, so I just elected to go walk the shoreline, wade in the water, and explore the shopping area of Grand Turk before heading back to the ship.
With an all-aboard time of 2:00 p.m., I made it back onboard Carnival Pride just after Noon, while most other guests were still ashore soaking in the sun. Because of that, I was able to waltz right up to Guy’s Burger Joint on Deck 9 and grab myself one of Carnival’s delicious hamburgers, prepared under the guidance of notable comfort food chef, Guy Fieri.