Turks & Caicos is known for its stunning white sand beaches, crystal clear turquoise waters and exceptional water sports. Cruise passengers stopping in Grand Turk often fall in love with this beautiful Turks & Caicos destination. Although this unspoiled isle is inhabited, Grand Turk has the same laid-back vibe as the cruise linesí private islands. Thatís one of the many reasons why cruise passengers have ranked it as one of their favorite ports on Eastern Caribbean cruise itineraries.
Ships dock at the Grand Turk Cruise Center located next to a long, palm-studded white sand beach. Many cruise guests will spend the entire day in this general area, relaxing on the beach and playing in the clear turquoise waters. Others may do some shopping in the Cruise Centerís stores located right by the pier. Those who venture further will find that Grand Turk offers a number of appealing attractions and experiences.
Those who decide to explore might want to visit Cockburn Town, with its colorful 18th and 19th century buildings and architecture. Thereís a monument to Columbus in the townís plaza. Itís claimed that the explorer landed here in 1492 while on his famed voyage. Have lunch at the Guanahani Restaurant and stop in at the Turks & Caicos National Museum to learn more about the islandsí history. While youíre there, make sure to check out the museumís John Glenn exhibit. Glennís spacecraft splashed down in the waters off of Grand Turk in 1962. The Grand Turk Cruise Center contains an excellent exhibit on this topic as well.
Here are five popular things to do during your port day in Grand Turk:
1. Sail Away on a Catamaran. Catamaran cruises are a relaxing way for vacationers to unwind and get a close-up view of Grand Turkís extensive reef system and amazing marine life. Ship tours and other operators take guests out to various great snorkeling spots around Grand Turk. Here, you'll have the opportunity to snorkel alongside brightly colored tropical fish or simply laze on the deck soaking up the sun. Some excursions take guests to a deserted beach or to Governorís Beach, a site within Columbus Landfall Marine National Park, to relax on the white sands before returning back to the pier.
2. Chill Out at a Beach Bar. Jimmy Buffettís Margaritaville is a popular place for cruise passengers to spend their day. Itís situated less than a minuteís walk from the cruise ship pier. This popular beach bar has one of the Caribbeanís biggest pools as well as a 16,000 square-foot restaurant and merchandise trading post. Jackís Shack is another great beach bar and restaurant on Grand Turk. Itís located a short walk down the beach from the pier, so itís far enough away from the crowds to chill out and find peace in paradise. Just turn to the left when leaving the pier, walk by Margaritavilla and keep on going. The food and drinks here are great and there's free Wi-Fi here as well. Jackís Shackís beach dogs are another big draw. Keep a special eye out for golden-haired Topher Ė he loves to play with guests and swim with them in the water. Youíll find plenty of YouTube videos of him doing just that. The Sandbar Restaurant is another good waterfront spot for lunch as well.
3. Saddle Up and Swim. Horseback riding along the beach and into the water has been featured in several Caribbean destination ads. On Grand Turk, cruise passengers have the chance to turn this dream into reality. The tour takes cruise guests for a ride along one of Grand Turkís beaches. After completing the ride, the horses come to an area where guests can go on an exhilarating horseback ride in the sea. On the return trip, participants sometimes see some of the islandís endangered pink flamingos. This is a unique and exciting experience, one thatís seldom found outside of Caribbean cruise itineraries. Guests must be at least 6 years of age and weigh 250 pounds or less.
4. Play With the Rays. Cruise passengers have the opportunity to get up close with wild Atlantic Stingrays while visiting Grand Turk. Most of the excursions combine snorkeling around one or more of Grand Turkís beautiful reefs with a visit to the stingrayís playground area at Gibbs Cay. During the stingray encounter in the shallow clear water, guests have the opportunity to be in very close proximity to the rays. Children must be at least 5 years of age to participate in this shore excursion.
5. See Whatís Under the Sea. Grand Turk is home to the third largest barrier reef in the world. Itís not surprising, then, that diving and snorkeling are the most popular activities here. Snuba and semi-sub exploration opportunities are available as well. Grand Turk is a diverís paradise with multiple sites to explore. Divers are likely to see a wide variety of tropical fish, stingrays and turtles Ė as well as colorful coral and sponges. Divers must have a valid C-Card and be at least 12 years of age. Many operators also require participants to show proof of a dive within the last two years. Snorkelers can choose from a wide variety of excursion choices including catamaran sail and snorkeling cruises, power boat and snorkeling combos, power snorkeling using underwater propulsion units and more. Common snorkeling and diving sites include Columbus Landfall Marine National Park, Grand Turk Wall, Round Cay and Horseshoe Reef.