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Cruise Diary

by Linda Coffman

Fantasy docked in Grand Turk

Regular readers of 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 travel information. 

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.

Beach 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 charming island.

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 remain today.

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 excellent.

Grand 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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