Caribbean Cruise – Grand Turk

Our final destination of the cruise was Grand Turk, one of the Turks and Caicos Islands.  Two decades ago, Mr Pict had a job opportunity that would have taken us to live on Grand Turk for at least two years.  He declined for various reasons but I was curious to see what the island was like and to imagine what my life would have been like there.

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The ship docked at a beach resort area but we were eager to see something of the real Grand Turk, albeit from a completely skewed tourist perspective.  We, therefore, squeezed into a taxi and were whisked up the length of the narrow, flat island to the capital city, Cockburn Town.  The population of the whole of Grand Turk is under 4000 so it’s a compact city more akin to a village.  We spent some time perusing the stalls on Front Street and poking around on the beach – my kids found bits of coral, lobster body parts, and sun lounging dogs – and enjoying the view of the stunning turquoise water.

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Our goal for the day was the National Museum so we popped in there when it opened.  I am so often surprised by the quality of small, local museums or those dedicated to narrow interests.  This was the case with the Turks and Caicos National Museum.  The staff were very friendly and knowledgeable and they had really made the most of showcasing their exhibits, curating them in such a way that they told clear stories about the island.  The Museum is sited in the Guinep House, one of the oldest buildings on the island.  We learned that most of the timbers used in its construction were likely salvaged from shipwrecks, one of which was exposed so we could see it for ourselves.  I was rather charmed by this fact since one of my Shetland ancestors was imprisoned in the 1840s for pillaging from a shipwreck, another group of islands with very few trees.

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The ground floor of the museum was dedicated to showcasing its big ticket item: the finds from a wreck known as the Molasses Reef Wreck.  A caravel from the very early 16th Century, it is the oldest European ship excavated in the Americas.  While some like to claim that it could very well be Columbus’ ship Pinta (yup. him again), the museum staff were clear that identification has not been possible beyond stating the caravel was Spanish in origin and dated prior to 1520 at the latest.  It is possible, for instance, that is was a slave ship.  Regardless of its specific history, it was very cool to see the remains of such an old vessel.  We saw timbers that still had the wooden “nails” in them, various armaments, and a massive anchor.  A related exhibit illustrated how the ballast on the sea bed had been critical to identification and analysis and demonstrated how archaeologists had worked on the site.

Upstairs, we found an exhibit about the salt industry, the Fresnel lens of the island’s lighthouse, the story of an Irish helmet diver whose two brothers had drowned while diving, the culture of the indigenous Lucayans, and John Glenn’s landing in 1962 following his orbiting of the earth.

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Following the Museum, we returned to the resort bay.  My in-laws decided to relax on the ship but we Picts decided we would have a final beach day.  The kids played on the sand and in the surf with their dad while I listened to a podcast while lying on a shaded lounger.  That is the type of beach time I can compromise on.  Not a bad hurrah for the last shore day of our cruise.

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11 thoughts on “Caribbean Cruise – Grand Turk

    • It was a very different vacation for us. It isn’t necessarily what I’d have chosen – our rough and ready road trips are more my thing – but it was definitely an interesting experience and a change of pace.

      • That’s exactly what I meant: you don’t strike me a Caribbean Cruise type, if that’s a type at all 😀 But sure, it’s good to try something else once in a while. I’d probably actually enjoy it!

    • I did wonder how I would have filled my days. Living in Lochgilphead for over a decade gives me some perspective on what it is like to live as part of a small community and fairly remotely but there we were only a car drive away from the resources of a big city. Being a boat or plane ride away from those things is a whole other thing. Living in a small community had pluses (much easier to make friends) and also drawbacks (it can get a bit claustrophobic) and I can imagine that the negatives would maybe become magnified when living in geographical isolation with less ability to decompress from that goldfish bowl. However, it would only have ever been for two years so maybe I would have used that time to really invest in some of my hobbies and interests.

      • I very much enjoyed my time in Lochgilphead. It was probably the closest sense to “belonging” somewhere that I have felt, as I don’t especially put down roots, and that is because I was able to get so involved with the community and build a network. But it was the perfect location for the stage of life we were at then and it became clear to us that, for several reasons, we had to up sticks and move to pastures new. And that ended up involving emigrating.

  1. Laura – We visited that same island about 3 yrs. ago aboard the cruise ship Carnival Pride. It, as you well know, is a great place to visit. The crystal blue waters stunned me. Nice and clear and warm. The Ship only stayed there at the same dock as you for 4 hrs. and then departed for our next port of call. It did not give us much time to really see the place. It’s a great island, but would not want to live there. I, also, have some Images that I took while there. Hope you enjoyed your stay.

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