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Turks and Caicos

Grand Turk Cruise Port Tips

Visitors Will Discover Biggest Attraction is Cruise Center Itself
© Grand Turk Cruise Center
© Grand Turk Cruise Center
The Grand Turk cruise port, which is on the southern tip of the island, is not a city like most cruise ports. It is a separate cruise center built by Carnival.

It seems a logical thing to do on a small island of only 4,500 people. The island lies midway between the Bahamas and better known locations to the south.

As a result of its location, Grand Turk has become a common stop among eastern Caribbean cruise ports for Carnival and other cruise ships.

Turks and Caicos Islands are a British Overseas Territory. The islands are 30 miles south of the Bahamas and just to the north of Dominican Republic.

Grand Turk is one of 40 islands that form the Turks and Caicos archipelago. The island is about seven miles long and one and a half miles wide, which makes it easy to tour by bus, taxi or even bicycle.

Cruise lines that visit Grand Turk include AIDA, Carnival, Costa, Fred Olsen, Holland America, P&O, Princess, Saga and Silversea, according to the Grand Turk Cruise Center.

Quick Tips

  • The Grand Turk Cruise Center operated by Carnival Cruise Lines is an 18-acre welcome facility.
  • The center has both a pool and beaches within walking distance.
  • Nearby Cockburn Town is the island’s capital and historic district.

5 Top Attractions and Shore Excursions

Provo Golf Course
Provo Golf Course; credit: Turks and Caicos Tourist Board

1. Cruise Center

Visitors will walk off the dock and onto the 18-acre cruise center complex. It has not only a beach and pool but also dining, shopping excursions, car rentals, taxis and buses. Shopping of course is duty free.

A FlowRider is one of the newer attractions. The complex also has a 45,000 square foot shopping center with 10,000 square feet of duty free shopping.

So cruise passengers can spend the entire day there or spend a little time and take off for other things to do.

2. Cockburn Town

Once cruise visitors pass through the cruise center at the southern tip of the island -- if they ever do because of the variety of available activities -- they have to take a taxi or excursion bus to reach Cockburn Town.

The town with a population of 3,700 people has more shopping and dining plus a national museum.

It is known for its 18th and 19th architecture along Duke and Front streets along with winding roads and old street lamps.

Otherwise, Grand Turk is not known for the kind of popular and unique attractions that inhabit some other Caribbean islands.

Cruise line excursions make up the most common things to do outside of the cruise center, nearby beaches and visiting Cockburn Town.

3. Island Sightseeing Tours

A few sightseeing tours are available starting at about $35 per person. Stops include the Grand Turk Lighthouse at the northern tip of the island. Visitors can picnic in the shade and watch whales during the migration season.

Other stops may include downtown Cockburn, Columbus Landfall National Park, a visit with wild donkeys and the John Glenn monument with a replica Mercury 7 space capsule.

More expensive sightseeing tours include such activities as swimming with stingrays at Gibbs Cay for as much $100 to $150 per person.

4. Whale Watching / Water Excursions

Whale watching trips are available from late January through early April to see North Atlantic Humpback Whales take part in their annual migration and mating habits. Prices may run between $150 and $200 per person.

Snorkeling and diving are popular thanks to a reef that is 200 miles long and 65 miles wide. It has an 8,000 foot drop off. It is close enough to the shore for beach dives.

Excursion operators at the cruise center offer snorkeling with the stingrays, catamaran sailing, parasailing, deep sea fishing tours and bottom fishing tours.

Passengers can interact with stingrays at Gibbs Cay island. The attraction is a common cruise line excursion.

5. Land Excursions

Provo Golf Club is an 18-hole residential and community golf course that hosted the 2009 Caribbean Amateur Golf Championship.

Excursion operators have 4x4 safaris, helicopter rides, horseback rides with swim and dune buggy rides.

- See More Attractions

Beaches Near the Cruise Port

Cruise ship passengers search for seashells
on a Grand Turks beach; ©
Grand Turk is mainly a beach destination. It has plenty of them at or near the cruise center, so excursion operators offer few if any paid excursions. The few excursions that include beaches have them as an extra on top of other activities such as snorkeling, dune buggies or ATV rides.

The cruise center has 1,000 feet of beachfront. The nearby South Beach also is available for anyone who wants a quieter experience.

Two more beaches lie within walking distance -- Governor's Beach to the north and White Sands Beach to the south.

Anyone planning to see Cockburn Town, the Grand Turk Lighthouse (three miles north of town) or other attractions will find more beaches near both the cruise center and the town.

They include Cedar Grove Beach and Town Beach. Beaches north of the town include West Road, Pillory and Cocktree.

Shopping and Dining

Visitors disembarking at the Grand Turk Cruise Center will find restaurants available in the center.

They include a Jimmy Buffett's “Margaritaville” restaurant. Other restaurants outside the cruise center include:

Guanahani Restaurant & Bar in Bohio Resort, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with a menu that is both local and international.

Osprey Beach Hotel, 1 Duke Street, with fresh fish, the catch of the day, lobster in season, as well as steaks, lamb and chicken.

Manta House on Duke Street, a beach bar open for lunch and dinner.

The U.S. dollar is the official currency. Most shops and restaurants will accept traveler's checks. All of the cruise center stores accept credit cards.

Car Rentals / Transportation

Tony’s Car Rental in the cruise center offers car, scooter and bicycle rentals.

Grand Turk is small enough that bike riders can reach Cockburn Town and other locations. The town is three miles from the cruise center; there are no sidewalks.

Taxi fares are not metered. They are set in advance with fares listed on posted signs. The taxi stand is in the cruise center behind the shops.

The Grand Turk Taxi Association has tariffs based on four zones around the island named A. B, C and D. Rates from the cruise center range from $4 to $9 per person depending on the destination.

The cruise center is in zone A while Cockburn Town is in Zone B.

Cruise Weather

Grand Turk has typical eastern Caribbean weather with daytime temperatures reaching into the low 80s Fahrenheit in the winter and upper 80s to low 90s in the summer, according to the Turks and Caicos Islands Tourist Board.

Water temperatures range from the mid 70s Fahrenheit in the winter to the low 80s in the summer.

Rainfall averages 21 inches a year on Grand Turk with the heaviest usually taking place in the fall months during the Caribbean hurricane season. Otherwise, the TCI tourist board says the islands average 350 days of sunshine each year.

Other Tips

The US dollar is the official currency of Turks and Caicos.

Most hotels, restaurants and taxi services accept travellers cheques, which can be cashed at local banks.

Most credit cards are accepted and banks offer ATMs as well as cash advances on credit cards.

Tipping is normally paid to waiters, taxi drivers, maids and porters at 15%.

English is the dominant language. Spanish and Creole are commonly spoken.
Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

 > Category: Cruise Ports   

August 07, 2019

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