A visit to the Grand Turk Cruise Port is a happy day for cruisers. It is one of my favorite cruise ports, with immense natural beauty, crystal-clear shimmering turquoise water, and a laid-back vibe that offers both rest and relaxation. The cruise port itself (a 13-acre complex and port) is extremely clean and dotted with boutiques to shop at, a few cafes (including a new Starbucks), and has entertainment throughout the day. You’ll find shopping at Effy, Piranha Joe’s, Ron Jon Surf Shop, and Swarovski.
Grand Turk is the capital of the Turks and Caicos 40-island chain. Only eight of these are inhabited, yet offer 230 miles of white sandy beaches. You’ll most likely be exploring SunRay Beach when visiting by cruise ship, which is also home to the world’s third-largest barrier reef. The cruise port was developed by Carnival Cruise Lines in 2006 to showcase the magnificent beaches and Colonial heritage of the tiny island. This is one of the only places in the Caribbean where you can enjoy the island’s best beaches, just steps from the cruise ship, and hundreds of complimentary lounge chairs.
What is Grand Turk Known For?
Scuba diving is phenomenal in Turks and Caicos; it is even one of the top ten diving destinations in the world. Snorkeling is every bit as epic. Grand Turk is also a hotbed of salt ponds. It was a major industry from the 1600s to the early 1900s. You can learn more about the industry at the Salt House Shop or Grand Quay Salt Mine Company and see photo-worthy examples of the salt drying pans (Salinas) at Red or Hawkes Nest Salinas, nearest the cruise port.
The Grand Turk iconic lighthouse is a place you’ll want to see. At 170 years old, the picturesque 60 feet tall tower is flanked by fantastic scenery that will knock your socks off and the most famous landmark on the island! Unfortunately, you cannot access the inside of the lighthouse. The colors of the water (at least seven layers of blue that you can count) against the green hues of the native plants and the jagged marine limestone cliffs are almost too much for my eyes to absorb. It is that beautiful!
Another highlight of the island is Astronaut John Glenn’s replica Friendship 7 spacecraft. This spot marks where John Glenn took his first step on dry land after returning to Earth on his 1962 Mercury Space Mission. A U.S. Navy Base used to be there at the time.
Be on the lookout for the wild donkeys, cows, and horses you may see wandering around the streets or beach. The animals are cared for and fed by the government.
If you feel like escaping to a more secluded beach (and the most beautiful in Grand Turk), just a few minutes away is Governor’s Beach, but it is impossible to walk to it from the cruise port.
Grand Turk Cruise Excursion Options
Here is a look at some of the excursions that may be offered by your cruise line.
- Cruise Excursions Offered
- Whale-Watching Adventure
- Dune Buggy Safari
- Exploring Grand Turk by Open-Air Tram
- Horseback Beach Ride
- 4×4 Safari Adventures
- Explore by Electric Hummer
- Catamaran Boat Rides
- Deep-Sea Fishing
- Segway Grand Turk
- Gibbs Cay Stingrays and Snorkel
- All-Inclusive Private Beach Break
- Two-Island Hop with Lunch
- Power Snorkel, Rum, and Beach
- Clear Kayaking & Walking Eco Safari
- Certified Scuba
- Flowrider Experience
- Stand-up Paddle Boarding, Snorkel, & Beach
What I Like to Do at Grand Turk
I like to park myself in a lounge chair at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville (the largest in the Caribbean) and enjoy having a waiter bring me fancy drinks while listening to a DJ spinning awesome tunes. I then take several dips in the killer lagoon-style pool in a picture perfect setting. Sometimes, I’ll get my drinks from the fun swim-up bar. When the hunger sets in, I order a heapin’ stack of tasty nachos for a break from cruise-ship food. The food and drinks are pricy at Margaritaville, but since the pool and loungers are free, so I figure it is worth the splurge.
If you still need more, Margaritaville also has a FlowRider where you can learn how to surf, body-board, or at least make a fun video of attempting it.
On my most recent visit to Grand Turk, my Holland America ship was the only one in port when we arrived, so we were able to land primo seats around the pool. About 1 PM, a huge Carnival ship pulled in and people came out in droves. The music went from easy listening and island tunes to loud hip-hop in seconds. It was as if we were at a whole different place within minutes of the passengers disembarking. I found it interesting and wanted to share.
Fun fact: Margaritaville has 52 types of margaritas available.
Fun Facts about Grand Turk:
- Ponce De Leon discovered the island chain in 1512
- T&C uses the US dollar as its currency
- Grand Turk measures 7 square miles.
- Most architecture in Grand Turk is 18th and 19th century Bermudian
- Popular souvenirs are sea salts, conch shells, and natural sea sponges.
- All Turks & Caicos Islands are surrounded on every side by the Atlantic Ocean.
Sunsets and Scenery
Lastly, you’ll be privy to some of the best sunsets in the world from the beaches of Grand Turk Island. Pull up a chair on Governor’s Beach and watch the spectacular scenery unfold. You’ll see the crowds gather and photo shoots begin as soon as the golden hour begins. Everyone flees within minutes after the sun goes down. The mosquitoes also come out at that time, so bring repellent if you plan on being outdoors after dark.
Best described, the cruise port of Grand Turk, in the Turks and Caicos island chain, is a sensory overload for your eyes. Limestone buildings built in Bermudian style architecture with pastel colors, “pop” in front of the sparkling coastline waters and sand. The beautiful water and native plants enhance the landscape canvas like a world-class painting, and it is yours for the day. Enjoy this little slice of heaven, 575 miles south of Miami, on your ocean cruise. Bon Voyage!
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