Getting off the Carnival Breeze for our morning power snorkel excursion turned into quite a fiasco. Although the excursion started just half an hour after docking time they left people to make their own way off the ship through the crowd of people clamoring to get to the shore. At prior ports this trip early excursions met in a lounge and had a stairway reserved for them so they could get past the masses and out of the ship on time, but for some unknown reason they didn’t do that this port. Strike one. Should have made sure the people with excursions scheduled could get off the ship.
The Sunshine shared the same port schedule as the Breeze and was supposed to arrive at Grand Turk half an hour later. At the show the night before the cruise director told everyone they should get off before it got there and take up all the beach chairs before anyone from the Sunshine could get them. He also said the gangway would close for about 10 minutes when the Sunshine docked. So the stairways became a seething mass of people vying for the exit to the gangway as soon as passengers got the all clear to get off. Strike two. He should have advised people without any reason to get off early to wait until the door opened for good so people who needed to get off before the other ship got there could do so.
The Sunshine showed up 15 minutes early. Rather than making them wait until the scheduled docking time so the Breeze could clear out the waiting throng they closed the gangway after just a few people managed to get off the ship. Strike three. The other ship should have waited and not docked before they were supposed to.
Meanwhile time ticked away and more crowds piled up. That many bodies packed together unmoving with limited space soon generates body heat in ever more stale air full of the scents of people, sunscreen and perfume. Ten minutes got closer to thirty and the time for our excursion to start came and went while we stood packed in like sardines. Well most stood, some on the stairways sat down. I had just one person in front of me before the stairs, but she let me sit on the top stair when I started to get dizzy from too many scents and lack of fresh air. Passing out runs in my family and ignoring the sit down or fall down feeling never has good results for any of us.
Finally the line moved again. Only 4 people from our excursion made it out of the ship and to the meeting area on time so they had a long wait outside in the hot sun. Some people worried the excursion time might get cut really short for starting so late, but we returned late to make up some of the time. I had assumed we would board a boat to take us to the excursion, but we were led to a bus instead. I had never left the cruise ship port area in Grand Turk by land before. The cruise port area and what you see from the ship always looks beautiful so I felt quite sad to see the amount of litter around the island. It gathered along the streets and every vacant lot looked like a garbage dump. On the plus side we saw some flamingos and a few of the island’s feral donkeys.
The bus stopped in front of a beach resort in a rare garbage-free area. In the back they had a boat loaded with the torpedo shaped power units. Each one had handles on each side with buttons to make it go and a propeller in the back. Although the propeller was contained within a housing they warned us to tie up any loose strings, mainly those from the snorkel vests we were required to wear. Luckily putting air in snorkel vests is optional, but there’s always that residual bit from a previous user. Plus the vest itself even without air makes getting under the water that much more difficult if you want to do a free dive while snorkeling. Warm salt water is pretty buoyant. Even without any flotation devices it is a lot harder to dive under the water while snorkeling than it is to stay on top.
This excursion starts from the beach. They had everyone wear fins as well as masks, though I’m not really sure why they wanted us to wear fins as the power units meant we did not have to swim. It’s really hard to get to the water on a sandy beach without getting the fins full of sand. One person didn’t put theirs on and nobody stopped him from getting in the water so if I were ever to do this excursion again I’d leave the fins off.
Once everyone got set up with snorkel gear they demonstrated how to use the handheld scooters. Then everyone followed the guide out into deeper water. On the way out I saw a puffer fish, the first one I’ve ever seen while snorkeling. Unfortunately I hadn’t yet tried taking a photo while operating the power unit. I didn’t get a photo of that puffer fish and did not see any others.
You can definitely go a much greater distance with the power scooter thing than by swimming. It’s pretty easy to operate. As long as the lever is in the on position it goes when you push the buttons on both or either handle and stops when you let go of them. They said to hold it away from you down under the water. Guides travel along with the group and will help anyone with problems or questions.
It’s fun to zip along looking at the sea floor as you go. With the power scooters we could travel a pretty good distance, farther and faster than if we had to swim. The water got deeper and darker as we made our way to the drop off, which from under the water just looks like blue. You can see the edge of the reef going down into the depths and beyond that it is just blue as far as you can see. Water at the shore looks light blue and from there you can see where the water turns dark from the depth at the drop off.
Most anyone who enjoys snorkeling would enjoy this excursion. The handheld scooters don’t go as fast as boats or jet skis, but they go faster than a person can swim on their own.
We saw lots of yellow snappers, some sergeant majors, blue tangs, and lots of other fish. The reef had quite a few different types of coral, which got bigger as the water got deeper. Speaking of coral, the oil in most sunscreens harms coral as it washes off of tourists. In order to protect the coral while enjoying a chance to see it, use a biodegradable sunscreen. You won’t likely find one with the major brands, but they are available online. I also found some at a store that mainly sells herbal supplements and remedies.
The good thing about eco-friendly sunscreen is that while protecting the environment you also better protect yourself. Not only do these sunscreens stay on better than oil-based products, but the ones I got have zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as the active ingredients. These are the exact same ingredients recommended by dermatologists to prevent skin cancer. And at a bargain price compared to the tiny tube I got at my dermatologist’s office after having a basal cell carcinoma removed from my ear. Other than the difficulty getting off the ship this excursion went well and we had a great time.