Last year was my first time planning a cruise- we took a 7 day loop to Cozumel, Belize, Honduras, and Costa Maya. Me being new to the cruise planning scene, wasn’t sure what days in port would be like, so I played it safe and booked excursions for each day through the Carnival website. And we loved it- but I was curious to see what our time in port might be like if we went rogue. What would happen if we just researched the area before hand, hopped in a cab, and scoped out a more local scene? That was the challenge for this cruise. If you want to see how that went in the other ports, check out my article on Curacao or keep an eye out for my next on Aruba. So here’s to Grand Turk:
Our last day in port, we watched our ship slowly pull into the dock at Cockburn, Grand Turk as we ate breakfast in the pointed bow of the ship. The large Plexiglas windows were dotted with droplets of condensation, but we could clearly see the small island below. Other than the colorful port, the island looked somewhat uninhabited- the vegetation so lush only a few roads shone through. As I was finishing dunking one last bite of a soggy waffle into even more syrup, our cruise director, Emma called over the intercom to open the gangway. We quickly gulped down our juice and hit the stairs down to the depths of the ship. Walking out of the gangway led us to a long straightaway leading right into Cockburn. The air was sweet and the sun already heating up the island. To both the left and right are two perfect beaches with chairs and umbrellas already set. The water so clear to either side of the pier I could see even the smallest fish swimming near the sandy bottom. (This long stretch of beach is called Cruise Center Beach.)
Several signs dotted along the pier caught our attention as we walked into the cruise center shopping, “Chairs and Umbrellas free to public use.” Wait- what? These cruise ports are usually about charging for everything. Even though I’m insistent about not worrying about money on vacation, I will never frown at a good deal.
With an abundance of little cabanas along the beach we took liberty to explore the cruise center shopping before we planted roots seaside. I will tell you, if you are looking for more unique, local shops, you will have to taxi out of the main port. While the shopping there is well laid out, and the buildings lovely, it’s all very usual and touristy. Diamonds International, Ron Jon’s, Effy’s, etc. We spent maybe 15 minutes popping in and out of shops before we found our place in the sand.
Just before we left home for the trip, we bought our own snorkels- a lesson learned from our last cruise. So there was no need to rent equipment when we were ready to get in the water.
The gem of this trip wasn’t on land, but in the crystal clear turquoise waters of Grand Turk.
The water was a little cool, but after laying out in the intense sun the chill was more than welcomed. As we swam further out towards the barrier, we began to see more and more fish and even a school of squid. As we dove down to a cluster of rocks, tightly coiled in the perfect crevice, was a large orange octopus. It dared us to invade its home and I was happy to leave him be.
Note: Watch where you step when exploring the reef as Shane almost stepped right on a bright green Moray Eel with its teeth barred and ready!
Almost immediately after spotting our octopus friend, we happened upon two large sunken anchors and a centuries old cannon. Both were crusted in barnacles and we wondered how long they lay there in the sand. Many experts have estimated that there may have been over 1000 ships that have wrecked off the coast of the Turks and Caicos Islands since the early 1500’s. The wreckage and remains of these shipwrecks have remained beneath the smooth waters of Grand Turk for centuries.
We spent the entire day snorkeling, discovering, and absolutely loving the island of Grand Turk. Over the course of our day in Grand Turk, we spent 7 whole dollars (on a huge coconut full of sweet water) – I think that’s a pretty good deal.
So if you are looking to get under the water and see some amazing things, I would recommend bringing your snorkel, a towel, and your thirst for adventure. All you need to enjoy Grand Turk is the ability to swim.
Sweet dreams and Happy Travels Lovelies!