Carnival Magic approached an unknown island a couple hours before our scheduled port time for Grand Turk. “Is that a cruise ship?” Sheri asked, pointing at the island over the deck railing. The object in question certainly looked like one, and as the ship inched closer it became obvious that not only was a cruise ship docked on the nearby island, but a Carnival cruise ship. The cruise director announced that disembarkation would not take place any earlier than noon as it was scheduled for. Meanwhile the ship slowed to the point of barely moving enough to keep from drifting with the current, or so it seemed. Apparently the ship was not going to dock before the scheduled time regardless of when it arrived and that’s the cruiseline’s own dock. I suppose they have their reasons for that, but whatever they are no reasons were shared with the passengers.
People didn’t listen and started lining up to get off the ship long before it even started heading for the dock. At least the Magic’s cruise director had sense enough to say that anyone who did not need to be off the ship right away for scheduled excursions should wait for the crowd to clear before trying to disembark. Much better than the cruise director we had on both the Breeze and the Vista (same person) who kept trying to encourage more people to mob the exits making it impossible for anyone with an excursion meeting on the dock to get there on time.
We avoided the crowd by having lunch first and then leaving once the line cleared up. Unless you have something booked that you have to get to right away that’s usually a better plan when the ship docks around lunchtime. Using the time you would otherwise spend standing in a nearly endless line either before or after the ship docked to do something more fun or more productive is always a better use of your time.
Grand Turk is a great place to just get off the ship and go to the beach. There’s a beautiful sandy beach at the end of the dock with lots of beach chairs and umbrellas. You just have to make sure to stay on the chairs with the cruise line’s umbrellas (which were green when we were there.) If you sit under the other colors whoever owns them could charge you for the privilege of sitting there. You can rent snorkel gear right on the beach. At the border of the cruise line’s beach and someone else’s there are boats that tow people around on floaty toys like big blow-up bananas or rafts – for a fee of course. They also have cold drinks for sale. If you walk down the beach beyond the cruise line’s part there are little bars who also have beach chairs. These are often free because they want you to stay and buy drinks. There also are often little booths with crafts for sale where locals hope they can get tourists to part with their money.
We found a group of chairs under the cruise line’s green umbrellas for our home base. Mostly just a place to put our things while we went in the water, but we had a pretty big group and people came and went throughout the day. There’s enough sea life to make the beach at Grand Turk cruise port a great place for first-timers to give snorkeling a try, though not enough to impress avid snorklers. Seeing fish gave our 5-year-old grandson the incentive he needed to put his face in the water that he didn’t have in a pool where he failed the beginner swim class he took just before the cruise for refusing to put his face in the water. It didn’t take him long to learn how to use the equipment and start snorkeling all around. Our oldest grandson learned there the previous year and while tentative then, he had no qualms this time. He and I saw a giant ray, the biggest one I’ve ever seen, but unfortunately I have no photos of it because I didn’t have my camera with me at the time.
Meanwhile our granddaughter, who was the star of her more advanced swim lesson class, had issues keeping the snorkel in her mouth. She’d probably benefit from the easy breathe snorkel that got my husband to start staying in the water for more than 5 minutes, but unfortunately they want a fortune for the full-face mask in children’s sizes. There were some people renting those from locals on the beach, but for twice the price of the regular gear at the cruise line’s snorkel shack.
Grand Turk has all the usual cruise port shops and plenty of other shops as well. Margaritaville has a big pool with swim-up bar. There’s also a flowrider near the beach for those who want some surfing action, but it’s not free. On the far side of the dock from the swimming area there’s a display from one of the 1960’s Apollo missions that splashed down there.
You can of course book excursions through the cruise ship or outside sources. For last minute do it yourself tours head to the taxi stand.