After waiting over 45 minutes in the theatre (to board one of three tenders for 3000 passengers) we arrived to find a packed beach. I walked past the pirate ship/ DJ booth/ bar to the far end of the beach and went snorkeling. Spent most of my time looking for what few fish there were that I missed out on the BBQ lunch. Waited another 45 minutes in the sun to board the tender back to the ship. Didn't get to see the rest of the island, hence the neutral score
Walked off the ship with shopping in mind. Bought the shopping guide on board and went on my scavenger hunt for all the free stuff you get. For me it was worth the money. Paid $8 to get downtown and start the hunt. Luckily I was only given an hour and half before heading for the beach at Magan's Bay. If I had more time I would have gone broke with all the great bargains. Another $8 truck/cab fare to Magan's Bay on the other side of the Island was beautiful. The ride on the converted Ford F2/3/450 pickups took us up over the mountain to a spectacular view of Charlotte Amalie and the ships. I have to agree that Magens's Bay is one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world according to National Geographic. It costs $4 to get in and $5 for a beach chair. Had a huge club sandwich for $8. Headed back to the ship and did a little last minute shopping at the pier shops. Found a Citizen watch for 50% off and haggled a little more off. The price onboard was only 40% off, a difference of $42! Definitely have to come back, it's very beautiful. Next time I'm renting a moped to go up the twisties on the way to Magan's Bay.
I would have had a better time if I didn't have the time constraint of only 8 hours! My friends and I were the first ones off the boat. Confirmed by a Carnival rep that said only one tour group got off first. We went to the Sheraton and got picked up to rent a car on the other side of the airport. Rented a Mazda 2 for $60 from Bella Car Rental. Friendly service but DON'T go to the website I ran into Malware! We drove 45 minutes to El Yunque national forest, parked and hiked about 25 minutes to La Coca Falls. Swam in the cold water, took pictures and returned. Arriving at the parking lot we found it was packed with all the tour buses from the ship. Jumped in the car and headed back to Old San Juan. Found a parking garage near El Morro and walked to Castillo de San Cristobal. I paid $3 to get in and take pictures, spent 10 minutes but it was very nice. It was already 2pm and we had to return our car. We were dropped off at the pier at 2:50. People were still trickling in so we did some last minute duty free liquor shopping. The ship cast-off at 3:30 leaving 2 people behind.
The dune buggy excursion was sold out weeks before sailing so we thought we'd walk off and find another vender. Not a chance, Carnival has a monopoly on the dune buggies. The only thing you can rent outside the gates of the port area are mopeds for $60 the day and gas golf carts for 4 at $80. The island is pretty small and after talking to our cab drivers there really isn't anything to do. I was told to go to Diamond "something" for the best snorkeling. What he didn't mention was that the best snorkeling was off shore, and additional cost. The beach was small but free and only a few fish were found. Only spent about 2 hours before getting bored and headed back to the pier. The island is ripe for expansion. It resembles the early days of Cozumel. One driver said the government refuses to build large resorts on the capital island. All the large resorts are on Providenciales. None the less the ship docks at the pier in front of the beach and you have to go though the gift shop. Several duty free shops are located in the same area with Margaritaville leading to the beach. With a large swimming pool and swim up bars, it's were the party is at. If you go to Grand Turk you are really stuck paying an excursion or just partying on the beach.