by Linda Coffman
docked in Grand Turk
Regular readers of CruiseDiva.com
know this site does not host message boards. There's a good reason
for that--we consider them a gimmick to attract heavy
traffic. We prefer to give readers what they need--reliable cruise
However, that doesn't mean we
don't look over message boards on other web sites now and then. We
like to know what people are thinking. Recently, when we were
preparing for an Easter week cruise on Carnival's Superliner
Fantasy, we happened across a disturbing post on a
heavily-trafficked message board...
The question asked was, "Which
Carnival ships should be retired?" We naturally expected
responses like the Holiday and Celebration, the oldest and smallest
ships in the Carnival "Fun Ship" fleet. So it was stunning
that many posts opined that the Fantasy-class ships should all
be scrapped. Huh? Terms like "tired" and "old"
were bandied about...
Since we were about to embark on
Fantasy, the oldest ship in the class, we paid particular attention
to some of the gripes we'd read. Yes, Fantasy was launched in 1990
and doesn't contain all the WOW of more recent vessels. But worn
out, old, or old-fashioned? Let's check it out and dispel that myth.
Bob Dickinson, Carnival's outspoken former President & CEO, makes a
good point when he says that if you haven't sailed on Carnival in
recent years, you haven't sailed on today's Carnival. We had our
first taste of that at the Port Canaveral terminal as we were
afforded V.I.P. Check-In, a perk for Platinum level repeat
passengers (those who have sailed on ten or more Carnival cruises)
and suite occupants.
The V.I.P. line was, well, no line
at all! We entered the terminal next to the regular line and were
speeded through security by a Carnival agent. Then we were directed
to a small lounge where we were seated to complete our check-in.
We'd filled in our Fun Pass information online and our boarding
passes were presented to us in record time. And the special
treatment didn't stop there... a representative escorted us to have
an embarkation photo taken and then led the way onto the ship and
right to our cabin door. It pays to be a loyal Carnival passenger or
book a suite. Once on board, there is a Concierge located at the
reception desk to assist Platinum guests.
at Grand Turk Cruise Center
The Itinerary--Going Ashore
We were anxious to sail on Fantasy because of her new 5-night
itinerary from Port Canaveral that includes Grand Turk, Half Moon
Cay, and Nassau. Well, not necessarily Nassau. Grand Turk is the
star port of call, with Half Moon Cay a close second. After a day at
sea, we arrived in Grand Turk.
While the official grand opening of
Grand Turk's new Cruise Center wasn't scheduled until May 2006, we
got an early sneak peek and in a word, it's SMASHING! Just steps
from the pier are shops, tour operators, restaurants, a huge
swimming pool, and attractive beach areas. It's a great attraction,
but passengers who venture no further will miss the best of this
Much of Grand Turk is unspoiled and
reminded us of a sleepy Caribbean version of Bermuda. No surprise,
since it was once the home of displaced Bermudians who saw its
potential as a center for salt production; remnants of that industry
Tour options abound--many of them
centered on water pursuits such as snorkeling and diving. We saw a
caravan of dune buggies and that looked like a fun and exciting way
to see the island. A popular beach option included a mini-train ride
to Governor's Beach where the snorkeling was reported to be
Turk Lighthouse Park
The best way to see the most while
in Grand Turk appeared to be the on-and-off tourist bus. Included in
the fare are entry fees to the Lighthouse Park at the northernmost
point of the island and the Old H.M. Prison in historic Cockburn
Town. Both are lovingly restored, thanks to Carnival, which had a
hand in most of the island-wide improvements (and it's a modest
hand; you won't find any indication that the cruise line was
instrumental in improving the infrastructure).
A personal highlight of the day in
Grand Turk was our chance meeting with the island's oldest resident.
At age 99, Mr. Crofton is the total gentleman--gracious and
hospitable, he invited us inside his home to show us around and see
photos of his family. It was truly a memorable experience.
Our second port stop was scheduled
for the next day at Half Moon Cay, the private island developed by
Holland America Line. "Was" scheduled... unfortunately,
high winds in the 20 to 25 knot range from a westerly direction
caused the captain to cancel our call there. Tendering ashore simply
wasn't a safe option. The news elicited many groans among our fellow
passengers and we admit we were disappointed as well. While we have
been to Half Moon Cay in the past and enjoyed its lovely beaches and
fine facilities, we were looking forward to a new bicycling tour
"behind the scenes" on the island.
When we reached the final port,
Nassau, something strange occurred. Not a popular port of call, it
isn't uncommon for many passengers to remain on board when their ships
are docked there. Not so during our call. When we returned from a brief
shopping foray to Bay Street, Fantasy seemed deserted. Few people
were lounging at the pool and fewer still were in the Windows On The
Sea buffet restaurant. There were no lines and a wide choice of
tables for a quiet, leisurely lunch.
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