Beach Lovers Wanted

Carnival offers two new Caribbean destinations

By: Kevin Brass

Carnival’s five-day itinerary out of Orlando, Fla., is perfect for beach lovers the type of traveler who wants the comfort of a cruise but still craves some quality sand time. The year-round route is operated on the venerable Fantasy (until October when the Elation will take over), and includes two new Caribbean destinations for the line, Grand Turk and Half Moon Cay, as well as a call in Nassau.

The Fantasy is 16 years old, but she’s recently received a makeover. New additions include a miniature golf course, a 2,500-square-foot “Children’s World” and a renovated Promenade deck. The cabins have been completely refurbished and now include Carnival’s Comfort Beds, part of the fleet-wide Today’s Carnival program. (The beds are so popular, Carnival has made them available for purchase online.)

After a day at sea, we arrived at tiny Grand Turk, which recently opened a $42 million pier and terminal, the Grand Turk Cruise Center. This year alone over a half-dozen ships from a variety of cruise lines will use the 13-acre center. It is situated along a stretch of sandy beach on the south side of the seven-mile-long island, the capital of the Turks and Caicos island chain, located 30 miles south of the Bahamas. Before the terminal opened in May, the flat island of sandy beaches and abandoned salt marshes was little known outside the world of scuba divers.

Now, docking at Grand Turk is like arriving at a nice hotel, complete with white-shirted attendants and a private beach lined with chaise lounges and cabanas. There’s a large pool next to a massive Margaritaville bar and restaurant and neat rows of souvenir stalls, which gladly accept dollars.

There was something of a strip-mall atmosphere to the complex, which is separated from the rest of the island. But there was also a sense of security in the self-contained operation. The beach was uncrowded and clean.

The Cruise Center also serves as a base for a variety of excursions around the island, including sport-fishing, snorkeling and scuba diving trips. Air-conditioned “Hop On, Hop Off” buses leave from the center every 15 minutes. A recorded narration describes the rise and fall of the island’s salt industry, as well as its claim to be the first landing spot of Christopher Columbus.

Grand Turk’s main settlement, Cockburn Town, houses excellent examples of British colonial architecture, as well as an old prison known locally as the “Alcatraz of the Caribbean.”

I took the bus to the lighthouse at the north tip of the island and began wandering down the cliffs. At the end of the formal trail, I followed a path to a secluded cove, and I found myself alone an amazing feat during a cruise. I was still back to the pier in time for a snorkeling excursion to Gibbs Cay, a small dot of an island off the coast.

Our cruise also called at Half Moon Cay, the lovely secluded island familiar to devotees of Holland America Line. This is the first time a Carnival ship is calling regularly at the island, and it makes for a terrific “second” beach day. New additions to the island’s facilities include a chapel with a bougainvillea awning for weddings.

Our final stop at Nassau was perfect for a shopping fix; then it was back onboard for a final night at sea. It felt like a quick trip, but the two days of sandy fun coupled with Nassau’s market scene, made for a relaxing getaway.


Carnival’s five-day Eastern Caribbean itinerary aboard the Fantasy leaves from Port Canaveral on Mondays and Saturdays. After a day at sea, it features stops at Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay and Nassau. On Oct. 23, the Elation will replace the Fantasy on the route, which Carnival offers year-round.

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