Life on a boat can get hectic. While a cruise might seem relaxing – picture gently swaying on the Caribbean sea as you enjoy views of the endless water while lounging in your room balcony – there is so much to do onboard that after a while the body demands some serious rest and relaxation from the rest and relaxation you’ve supposedly been having all along.
Grand Turk, a part of the Turks and Caicos Islands, provides exactly that. It also gets the award for having the best beach during our entire trip through the Caribbean. The reason behind this is because the “complex” where we docked and the adjoining beach with its beautiful soft sand is owned and maintained by the shipping company, and thus it comes with free beach access, lounge chairs, and an opportunity to just be.
I love the beach!
It’s just a fantastic place to be. The water, the sand, the waves, the people, the heat… Wait a minute!
Remember when I said I love the beach (it’s like two sentences above, so if you did forget, might I suggest a check-up with the doctor)? You might also like to know that I cannot stand the heat.
Yes! I do come from India.
Yes! We have scorching and humid summers here.
Yes! I break out in a rather irritating, scratchy, skin reddening rash if I stay in the direct sun for more than a few minutes.
So, now I enjoy my beach life before the sun comes up and after it sets. In-between, since I do love the beach and at times like these there are no options (unless I want to miss my boat), I have to wear a shirt. Trust me, I’m actually saving you further torture by doing this. Or I stay in the shade, and in all honesty, I do feel a bit out of place, but so is life and you make do with what you have.
Grand Turk is a stop where the ship practically empties out. Many on the staff get time off at the port, and they all use it to their best advantage. It’s always sweet to come across the still smiling staff in everyday clothes for a change rather than in their work uniforms. And because there are some free WiFi hot-spots in the complex, everyone is busy catching up with the rest of the world.
However, coming back to the beach for a minute, I’ve heard many people talk about the perfect beach being secluded and empty from the hustle and bustle of people. That might be fun sometimes (maybe on your honeymoon or a romantic getaway), but I have always enjoyed a beach when it is crowded. The whole point of the beach is to just lie down and watch the world pass by as you get baked. A busy beach is a great place to watch people – not in a pervert sense mind you – from all walks of life go about their business in as little clothes as possible.
The beach is an entirely different experience when you notice the simplicity of life being reflected on a stretch of sand. Children splashing and building sand castles, a husband pulling his non-swimming wife into the water or visa versa, beach sports ranging from snorkelling to jet-skiing, and lastly, burying your passed out friend in the sand and giving them body parts of the opposite sex, all if fair game when you’re on the beach.
The beach at Grand Turk was brimming with all of the above activities. Clean and with water levels ranging from around 2-6 feet near the end, made the beach perfect for the family, where even the younger kids could venture out on their own.
I was first introduced to the mellow island music of Jimmy Buffett by an American friend when I studied in Germany. His lyrics and the calming high – wink wink – that his music still brings about, especially some of the earlier songs, is perfect for a location like Grand Turk. It’s not surprising then – although I was happily surprised – to find Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville in Grand Turk.
A crystal clear pool, a Flowrider, signboards all around to bring a smile on your face, food and drinks to pass away the time sun-bathing, and some of Buffet’s most popular songs – Cheeseburger in Paradise, Son of a Son of a Sailor, Grapefruit-Juicy Fruit, Changes in latitudes… – playing in the background; the atmosphere is that of a beach club and let’s face it, this is how life should be lived.
There’s a lot to shop as well, at the Carnival Cruise Center, from souvenirs to island arts and crafts. Here’s a little tip though, all the employees of the cruise get an employee discount at this location, and since many disembark, if you can find someone from the ship (wasn’t really hard for us since most people working on it were Indian), you can request them to help you get that discount.
While we decided to make the most of the free (doesn’t include food, drinks, or your shopping) hospitality by the cruise company – on land for a change – and have a laid back relaxing day with occasional dips in the water, consuming Landshark beer, you can always venture out and take a ride around the island on a scooter or explore some of the other nearby beaches, which are equally pretty and comparatively less crowded.
Grand Turk, is a flat island, at the time was recovering from total devastation a few years back by a hurricane, and thus the inflow of tourists and investment by the cruise companies has been extremely well received and appreciated.
The sight of the bluest water we came across in the Caribbean and the euphonious music at Margaritaville amplified by the “unhealthy” and not recommended – unless you are on a cruise – combination of chilled beer and the sun, and a pristine white beach full of vigour, made our stop at Grand Turk genuinely magnificent and memorable.
A family vacation, a cruise – halfway around the world, one of the severest winters seen by Europe, the warm Caribbean weather living up to its name; Captivating Caribbean is a small series where I shall cover some of the stops we made during this 14-day cruise. Hopefully, these “photo-essays” with the occasional tips can give you a glimpse into island life in this part of the world.