Sun and Sand in Grand Turk

Come for the Beach, Stay for the View in Grand Turk. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Come for the Beach, Stay for the View in Grand Turk. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

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.

Grand Turk, as seen from the upper decks of Carnival Pride. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Grand Turk, as seen from the upper decks of Carnival Pride. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Grand Turk isn't terribly big (it's less than one mile wide overall), but it's the beach that most folks come here to see. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Grand Turk isn’t terribly big (it’s less than one mile wide overall), but it’s the beach that most folks come here to see. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

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.)

Welcome to Grand Turk. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Welcome to Grand Turk. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

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.

A manufactured cruise port of call, Grand Turk's shopping area has all the usual touristy suspects. That's either a great thing, or a terrible thing, depending on your stance. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

A manufactured cruise port of call, Grand Turk’s shopping area has all the usual touristy suspects. That’s either a great thing, or a terrible thing, depending on your stance. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Still, it's a pretty enough port area, and very safe. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Still, it’s a pretty enough port area, and very safe. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

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.

The main beach at Grand Turk: the place to be for sun and sea seekers. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

The main beach at Grand Turk: the place to be for sun and sea seekers. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Grand Turk is one of the few ports where your ship is just steps away from the beach. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Grand Turk is one of the few ports where your ship is just steps away from the beach. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

With just one ship in port today, deck chairs weren't at the same premium they are when there's two ships in. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

With just one ship in port today, deck chairs weren’t at the same premium they are when there’s two ships in. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

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.

Looking for something more local? Try one of the local "shacks' on the beach, where the beers start at just $3. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Looking for something more local? Try one of the local “shacks’ on the beach, where the beers start at just $3. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Don't want to go to Margaritaville? You'd be alone on this cruise. Still, for those who want local fare (like myself), there are other options. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Don’t want to go to Margaritaville? You’d be alone on this cruise. Still, for those who want local fare (like myself), there are other options. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

 Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Carnival Pride on the ultimate beach day. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Carnival Pride on the ultimate beach day. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

I seriously don’t know what Carnival puts in these burgers; they’re hands-down the best I’ve had at sea, and are up there with the “Pancho Villa” burger that Viking Ocean Cruises serves aboard its Viking Star and Viking Sea; ships that have a vastly higher price-point than your average Carnival cruise.

I think Guy’s is one of the more addictive things on this ship, and one of the venues that, along with the BlueIguana Cantina, I miss on Carnival’s older vessels that haven’t yet been refitted to include them.

Looking along the port side of Carnival Pride from the ship's exposed bridge wing viewing area on Deck 10. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Looking along the port side of Carnival Pride from the ship’s exposed bridge wing viewing area on Deck 10. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

At 2:56 p.m. under increasingly brooding skies, Carnival Pride pushed away from her berth at the Grand Turk Cruise Center, 26 minutes past our scheduled departure time of 2:30 p.m. This is the furthest south we’ll sail on this itinerary, as we leave the Turks & Caicos and head in a north-easterly direction, bound for Little San Salvador Island in the Bahamas; better known to cruisers as Half Moon Cay.

Back onboard, my long hike in the sand requires the kind of sustenance that only Carnival and Guy Fieri can provide, at Guy's Burger Joint. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Back onboard, my long hike in the sand requires the kind of sustenance that only Carnival and Guy Fieri can provide, at Guy’s Burger Joint. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

The afternoon finds us back at sea again – not a bad place to be on any FunShip. Here’s a look at a few noteworthy events and activities happening through the afternoon and evening onboard the Carnival Pride, culled from the front page of today’s FunTimes:

  • Bocce Ball Tournament: Are you a Bocce Ball enthusiast? It may sound easy, but in just one roll the target can change. Come test your skills in the Captain’s favorite game! 2:30 pm, Atrium Lobby, 2 Mid.
  • Guess That Song with Schwartz: Your Cruise Director has some fun, interactive and 100 percent musically-inspired trivia in store for you. You’ll be singing out loud in no time! 4:30 pm, Atrium Lobby, 2 Mid.
  • High Seas Karaoke: Warm up those vocal chords, it’s time to step up to the stage, grab the mic and channel your inner idol. Can you hit it? Become the audience favorite and the prize is yours! 6:30pm – 9:45pm, Butterflies, 1 Fwd. 9:45pm – 11:00pm (18+), Butterflies 1 Fwd.
  • Identity Crisis: The Game: Watch our Fun Squad try to figure out who or what they are by asking only yes or no questions in this fun and entertaining game show. Let hilarity ensue! 7:30pm, Taj Mahal, 2 Fwd.
  • Gender Showdown with Schwartz: The time has come to answer the age-old question, “Who is the best!?” The men? The women? Bring your A-Game, the other side fights dirty! 8:15pm, Taj Mahal, 2 Fwd.
  • $750 Balloon Bingo: BINGO has never been this much pop-inspiring fun! Not only can you win tons of cash, but win game three and pop a balloon with a hidden jackpot of up to $750! 9:00pm Bingo Card Sales, Taj Mahal, 2 Fwd. 9:30pm, $750 Balloon Bingo, Taj Mahal, 2 Fwd.
  • Love & Marriage Show With Schwartz: How well do you really know your better half? Join your Cruise Director, Schwartz, for this hilarious show with questions and sometimes shocking answers. (18+). 10:15pm, Taj Mahal, 2, 3 & 4 Fwd.
  • Carnival Quest: Throw your inhibitions into the sea for a spicy adult version of the classic scavenger hunt. Get your team together for a crazy fun event like no other! (18+). 11:15pm, Butterflies, 1 Fwd.

Carnival Pride is also the only Spirit-class ship to have Carnival’s Seaside Theatre big-screen movie experience. Tonight, Carnival is offering three feature films for guests to enjoy out under the stars in the warmth of the Caribbean breeze: Creed (PG-13, 6:45pm); The Martian (PG-13, 9:45pm), and a special midnight screening of Deadpool (R) at 12:00am.

Catch a movie under the stars at the Seaside Theatre. Today, three selections - including a special midnight screening - are being held on Lido Deck 9. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Catch a movie under the stars at the Seaside Theatre. Today, three selections – including a special midnight screening – are being held on Lido Deck 9. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

This evening,it's back at sea for the 2,124-guests aboard Carnival Pride. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

This evening,it’s back at sea for the 2,124-guests aboard Carnival Pride. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Really? I thought it was at least 27 percent. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Really? I thought it was at least 27 percent. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

As for me? I spent my evening doing something I’ve never done on a Carnival ship: I sat in the piano bar for well over an hour, while talented entertainer Kyng Bea delighted the small but enthusiastic crowd gathered there. I don’t know why I haven’t made it to the Piano Bar before on my three previous Fun Ship sailings, but I can say this: Carnival’s piano bars (and entertainers) are some of the best at sea if what I saw tonight is any indication.

That’s Carnival for you: full of surprises.

 Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Our Live Voyage Report aboard Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Pride will continue tomorrow from Half Moon Cay, Bahamas! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog.

Carnival Pride - Eastern Caribbean from Baltimore

DAYPORTARRIVEDEPART
Sunday, August 14, 2016Baltimore, MDEmbark Carnival Pride4:30 PM
Monday, August 15At Sea
Tuesday, August 16At Sea
Wednesday, August 17Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos8:00 AM2:30 PM
Thursday, August 18Half Moon Cay, Bahamas8:00 AM5:00 PM
Friday, August 19Freeport, Bahamas7:00 AM1:30 PM
Saturday, August 20At Sea
Sunday, August 21Baltimore, MD07:00Disembark
 

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