Tag-Archive for » Grand Turk «

Friday File: Beaches With A Difference

So many places visited by cruise ships have beaches, or beaches nearby, because — let’s face it — everybody’s thinking about finding somewhere warm with the coming months of winter. But beaches are more than just silk sand and warm water, as you will see from a few that we’ve discovered from cruising…

St. Maarten

Perhaps the only beach in the world where you get this close to an airplane in flight, and a regular tourist attraction when cruisers visit Philipsburg, St. Martin​.


This beach is often empty, like this, but 70 years ago on the northern coast of France Juno Beach was populated with thousands of soldiers in World War II.


When Carnival sends its Fantasy to sail out of Mobile next year, one of its three ports of call will be a pretty place called Progeso on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

Grand Turk

At Grand Turk, there’s an uncommon shady spot close to the water for cruisers who like going to the beach without being obsessed with getting a suntan..


Cruisers going to Alaska from Vancouver, like the ones this Holland America ship, always pass Ambleside Beach after crossing under the Lions Gate Bridge.

Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen heads the growing popularity of Riviera Maya's beach properties on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, a short ferry ride from Cozumel.

In the news…

• Cunard offering free balcony upgrade on Transatlantic crossings starting October 29
• P&O's first alcholic beverage package on Pacific Pearl may extend to fleet of five ships

Today at portsandbows.com: The return of Carnival to Mobile, Alabama

Caribbean Princess
7 nights
January 17, 2016
Houston (return): Cozumel, Roatan, Belize
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $71

Friday File: Searching For Margaritaville

One of us is obsessed with the tequila-based drinks called margaritas…not drinking them, finding where they are. Like, in Margaritaville, homeland of Jimmy Buffett. As a concession to her, and at the risk of alienating you, below are some of the fruits of her labor (and you can be sure there are more to come!)…

Cayman IslandsMost Margaritavilles are in the south, because their creator wears shorts and no socks. This palatial one in the Cayman Islands may be the biggest she has found…so far.

Falmouth JamaicaYou have to look long and hard to find the Margaritaville connection with this work of art at the cruise port of Falmouth, Jamaica…unless you have a built-in Margaritaville magnet.

Grand TurkAt Grand Turk, Parrotheads ‘get’ the obvious connection on the signage above the front door, and if you don’t know what Parrotheads are chances are you haven’t read this far.

LabadeeThe obsessed photographer will even seek out people wearing Margaritaville shirts, like on the beach at Labadee. Little did this musician know he was a photo-op subject. 

New OrleansNew Orleans may be as close as Jimmy Buffett gets to landlubbing (except for concerts) and his fans will tell you he’s a perfect match for the French Quarter.

CozumelFinding Margaritaville in Mexico is easy, at least in Cozumel…after seeing this, the photo subject looked over at the bench and asked: “Where’s Jimmy?”

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Celebrity Constellation
13 nights
April 9, 2015
Fort Lauderdale, Funchal, Gibralter, Alicante, Rome
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $46

The Astronaut's Grand Turk home

GRAND TURK — Where else would you expect to find John Glenn but standing on a beach in the Caribbean? After all, the famous astronaut-cum-senator has put in his time and deserves to be, at 93, where the sun shines and the fresh ocean breeze makes it feel like paradise.

That place is Grand Turk, an island that’s part of Turks and Caicos. John Glenn can be John Glennfound standing in the sand, in full gear, a statue of the astronaut who inadvertently gave this island an identity and, in some ways, an escape from the anonymity which history delivered.

The statue is part of the Grand Turk Cruise Center and is a tribute to American astronauts in general, and Glenn in particular, and it helps when a security officer named Larry Swann Larry Swannpoints you in the right direction. It’s not that the display is hard to find…it’s just a subtle addition to where cruise ships deposit visitors on a regular basis.

Most of the ships are Carnival’s (ours is the Freedom). Other lines in the Carnival family — Holland America, Costa, Princess — also make calls here and they usually come at the rate of seven per week. The 15,000 or so visitors are critical to Grand Turk’s economy, now principally dependent on tourism.

Once, however, it was a different story.

More than 50 years ago, John Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth. He did it three times that day, February 20, and his time in space lasted four hours, 55 minutes, 23 seconds. When his capsule — all six feet by nine feet of Friendship 7, as it was called — landed, it was off shore from Grand Turk, which became the first soil his feet touched after returning from space.

Hence, the reason for the tribute on the sand.

It’s not big, it’s free and it’s well-done. It’s also a mini-history of the beginning of America’s space program, a story that never really gets old to those of us who Space parkremember the early days. And like all such places, it’s something of an education.

For example, who knew (or remembered):

• That the Mercury 7 space program was so named because it included the nation’s first seven astronauts?

• That the criteria for being an astronaut included a height restriction of 5’11”, an age restriction of 40 and a weight restriction of 180 pounds?

• That one of the seven, Deke Slayton, didn’t fly in the Mercury program because of a medical condition but later went into space with Apollo?

• That Glenn became a national hero accorded a ticker tape parade in New York in which he rode in the seat next to President Kennedy?

• That astronauts who flew in the Space Shuttle each had 10 times the space Glenn had, and that it was said he “wore” his space capsule rather than rode in it?

• That there were no computers on Friendship 7?

• That when Glenn went back to space in 1998, at the age of 77, he sealed his place as the only astronaut ever to fly in the Mercury and Space Shuttle programs?

• That when he went fishing with fellow astronaut Scott Carpenter, who joined him on a Grand Turk “vacation” after the landing, they rescued an unconscious skin diver?

• That Carpenter, the second American to orbit the earth, also splashed down and was taken to Grand Turk?

The island gained an international reputation in those days. The U.S. Air Force base closed with the end of the Cold War and today it’s economy is also built around Astronautsoffshore banking and construction. When there is no cruise ship in port, which is most of the time, places on the beach like Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville and assorted other tourist stops and shops, are closed.

Hopefully one day, when the last surviving Mercury astronaut is looking down from another place, his little place in the sand won’t be forgotten.

Today at portsandbows.com: Holland America’s wordly cruises

Caribbean Princess
7 nights
September 6, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return): Grand CaymanRoatanCozumelPrincess Cays
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57

Ships to Margaritavilles Quite A Contrast

Comparing Margaritaville in Falmouth, Jamaica at four in the afternoon with Margaritaville in Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos at high noon is not exactly like comparing — as Jimmy Buffett himself would say — papayas and mangos.

Nonetheless, it does beg a question…

What was Jimmy thinking?

In our family, which has two "parrotheads" and at least a couple who are on the verge, it's almost sacrilegious to question this Pirate Past Sixty. Do so at your own peril. However, having stricken two more of his 35 restaurants from our personal Buffett List, the one on the dock of the bay in Jamaica left us wondering.

Margaritaville-FalmouthIt's a great layout, maybe the best of the eight or so we've seen, and its accessible to Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas, which drop by once a week with 6,000 or so potential parrotheads. It has an open-air restaurant accompanied by a bar, plus a pool with a swim-up bar, plus the inevitable gift shop, plus a pleasant pathway that link them all.

The day we were there the only thing missing was a crowd.

Granted, Allure was 90 minutes away from "all aboard," so many passengers were already back on the ship by 4 p.m. But we were told Margaritaville wasn't busy at all — "Everybody stayed on the ship to watch the World Cup" — and that it's only open when a cruise ship arrives, which is two or three times a week. There's even a three-story building that apparently was going to be a hotel (at a cruise port?) but now is destined to house, among other things, a British pub.

Now there's a match for you…mushy peas and margaritas.

Margaritavillew-Grand TurkEnter Grand Turk. This is Carnival country, and that Margaritaville is about the same distance from the Freedom as the one in Falmouth was from the Allure. The Freedom, we should add, carries half as many people as the Allure…and this place was jumping. There were people everywhere, in the restaurant, the bar, the pool…especially the pool. It was hard to see the water for the flesh.

It was so busy — this was at 12 noon — that it was hard to get a sense of the complex's layout. The music was loud and not much came from the Cheeseburger in Paradise and Fins playbook, but lots of reggae, mon, and some pop that had everybody from waiters to drinkers to bathers singing along. Karaoke, yes, but not the Jimmy song Too Drunk To Karaoke even if some of the patrons were.

Yes, at noon.

In both restaurants, the food was good, the prices were up there and the service was, well, laid back at best. Now we all know Jimmy Buffett doesn't go barefoot because he can't afford socks, but if Jolly Mon Sing is an appropriate lyric in Grand Turk, then in Falmouth the most fitting lyric just might be Wasting Away in…Jamaica.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: Silversea set for spectacular 2016 Odyssey

Carnival Conquest
7 nights
July 27, 2014
Miami (return): CozumelBelizeRoatanCosta Maya
Inside: $429
Cost per day: $61

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