Noordam First Big Ship to Visit Grand Turk

February 27, 2006

In what is a nice bit of symmetry, Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos chain of islands -- and hitherto off-limits to big-ship cruise vessels -- welcomed its first ship, Holland America's Noordam, which just happened to be making its first-ever port call.

The ship docked at the island's fresh new cruise terminal, a facility custom-built for cruising that is owned by Carnival Corporation, the parent company of Holland America, not to mention Princess, Carnival and Seabourn.

The Turks and Caicos islands have long been one of the Caribbean's last off-the-beaten-path destinations. They are tucked between the Bahamas and the Caribbean and consist of a string of 40 different isles; only eight are inhabited. Turks and Caicos is a self-governing British overseas territory and its major claim to fame is, beyond gorgeous white sandy beaches, the fact that it sits on the world's third largest coral reef.

The launch of this terminal, the first on either of the two major islands (Providenciales is the other), can potentially introduce two Panamax ships at a time to the charms of Grand Turk. Because the island is still pretty undeveloped (though reports back say that numerous new hotels are in the beginning phases of construction), Carnival Corp. designed the cruise terminal as a destination in its own right. Passengers there have access to a recreational area with an 800-ft. stretch of beach, swimming pool and cabanas, and there will also be retail shops and the Caribbean's largest Margaritaville outpost (that's Jimmy Buffet's themed eatery).

At this point, almost two dozen shore excursions are available, including a "hop on, hop off" bus tour for exploring the island's attractions and beaches, a two-hour private island escape, and horseback riding both on land and in the ocean.