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Turks and Caicos

Grand Turk Cruise Port: Tips, Excursions and Weather

© Grand Turk Cruise Center
© Grand Turk Cruise Center

The Grand Turk cruise port, which is on the southern tip of the island, is not in a city like most Caribbean cruise ports. It is a separate cruise center built by Carnival Cruise Line.

It seems a logical thing to do on a small island of only 4,500 people. As a result of its location, Grand Turk has become a common stop among eastern Caribbean cruise ports for Carnival, Carnival-owned cruise lines such as Norwegian and cruises from other companies.

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.

Cruises that include Grand Turk among their ports of call usually range from four nights and five days to seven nights and eight days. Most of the cruises originate in Florida ports, although some of the longer cruises originate from the upper east coast of the United States.

Itineraries often include a port in the Bahamas such as Nassau, Freeport and Half Moon Cay. Longer cruises may include other eastern Caribbean destinations such as San Juan and St. Thomas.

Turks and Caicos Islands are a British Overseas Territory. 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.

Where is Turks and Caicos?

The island chain lies about midway in a line between the cruise ports at Nassau, Bahamas, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. It is 466 miles southwest of Nassau and 390 miles northeast of San Juan. Its location makes it a convenient stop on the way from Nassau to San Juan during eastern Caribbean cruises.

Quick Travel Tips

  • The Grand Turk Cruise Center operated by Carnival Cruise Line 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.

Attractions and Shore Excursions

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

Walking Around Attractions

Grand Turk is so small that cruise passengers won’t have much to see other than the Grand Turk Cruise Center at the docks. But Carnival tries hard to make up for that fact.

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.

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. Shopping of course is duty free.

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

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 and shore excursions.

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.

Shore Excursions

Grand Turk Cruise Port Map

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

Whale watching. 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.

The Grand Turk Lighthouse at the northern tip of the island is a working lighthouse. Visitors can picnic in the shade and watch whales during the migration season.

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.

Water excursions. 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.

- See More Attractions

Beaches Near the Cruise Port

Cruise ship passengers search for seashells
on a Grand Turks beach; © Dreamstime.com

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

Turks and Caicos has some of the most sunshine and least amount of rain in the Caribbean. Government officials say it has 350 days of sunshine every year. Keep in mind that a day with sunshine doesn’t always mean a day without clouds.

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 Fahrenheit 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.

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.

- More information: Grand Turk Cruise Center

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
October 07, 2021