Hurricane Maria damaged buildings and knocked down trees throughout Grand Turk on September 22, 2017, and by November 1, it was welcoming back cruise passengers. Carnival Corporation, which operates the port area, was instrumental in delivering supplies and assisting with the cleanup. Cruise Critic recently paid a visit to the capital of the Turks & Caicos Islands, and here's what we found.
Beaches Are Bustling
The main beach on either side of the cruise ship pier was in full swing with two ships in port (Carnival Glory and Silver Whisper). The complimentary beach chairs and clamshells lined the sand, beach bars were serving up refreshing drinks, bathrooms and showers were operational. Palm trees were abundant and leafy. A private beach farther down, with shaded cabanas and water toys, was also open for passengers who bought day passes as part of an excursion.
Margaritaville Is Open
One of the primary manmade attractions of the Grand Turk cruise port area is Margaritaville, a bar and restaurant chain owned by Jimmy Buffet, and a free-for-all pool. Both were open and packed with visitors on the mid-December day we called, and we saw no signs of damage.
Cruise Village Is Ready for Business
When you get off the ship in Grand Turk, you enter the port area through a duty-free shop and find yourself in a plaza surrounded by tour kiosks, market stalls, big stores (selling jewelry, T-shirts and other souvenirs) and an open-air exhibit devoted to NASA's Mercury space program and John Glenn's Friendship 7 capsule splashdown in the waters off Grand Turk. The buildings look pristine and are packed with wares to sell, the museum displays are up, and tours guides are greeting and organizing passengers with excursion tickets as usual.
Tours Are Running
We took the Grand Turk Coast-to-Coast Safari tour to get an overview of the island. While on tour, we saw numerous other tours underway. We shared the road with rental golf carts, Segways and motorized buggies on guided tours. At the lighthouse, which did not show signs of hurricane damage, we watched visitors ziplining and heading out on a horseback ride. In the main tour area, we saw passengers gearing up before swimming with stingrays. Scuba and snorkel tours were departing as planned.
Grand Turk Is Still In Need of Repairs
Don't be fooled by the immaculate cruise port -- the rest of Grand Turk still has much reconstruction ahead of it. Schools are still closed due to damage, many buildings that were impacted or totally destroyed are still awaiting repairs or rebuilding; there's debris in the salt ponds and downed trees still need to be hauled away. Even the island's airport still has damage to its roof. Want to help? Tip your tour guides or buy some souvenirs from local vendors to put money in the hands of the people who are proud of their island and working hard to rebuild it.
--by Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor