On Saturday, February 25, 2006, at 7am the first Carnival-owned cruise line arrived on Grand Turk. It was Holland America’s maiden voyage of the Noordam.
Harry and Addie propped themselves up on our bed staring out the window with excitement at 7:30am as we heard the purtt purtt purtt of dunebuggies heading by our house taking Noordam passengers on one of their land excursions. Harry said his Grandpa is going to take him for a dunebuggy ride when he gets here…he wants to ride in a green one (hear that, Grandpa? Don’t disappoint.).
The dunebuggies were followed 10-minutes later by a dozen cyclists getting their bicycle land tour of Grand Turk.
Despite our enthusiastic children who were ready then to march out the door to head to see the cruise ship, it still took nearly two hours for us to actually get out the door. Harry tends to focus on the bird in the hand, so he continued to say, “Two more minutes, Mom. Just let me finish [playing with trains, writing this letter, riding my tricycle, etc.]”
We were off like a heard of stampeding turtles, with a stop at the bank then Allen’s company’s apartment and THEN the cruise ship. The two-minute bank stop was easily 15-minutes while we lingered among a crowd of Philippino-workers who were brought to Grand Turk to help finish Carnival’s cruise center on time. While in line, Allen was approached by a local Turk’s islander who was selling “Grand Turk cookies.” I’m not sure what was in them, and I’m not sure I want to know. Any first-world health department would have a field day with the “commercial” kitchens on this island. They were sort of a bland cruncy sugar cookie - but we ate them all. Heck, even a bad cookie is still a good cookie in my book.
Oh, I’m not sure we mentioned, but we can’t have a checking account on the island without a work permit (we’re still riding on a temporary-expired work permit here, but that’s a whole other story). And since most places we go don’t take credit cards we have to go to the bank quite frequently. In fact, we pay our rent in cash.
Anyhow, back to the cruise ship. We arrived at the cruise center around 11am. Guess who fell asleep in the back seat? So, Allen and Harry went off to explore, while I waited for her royal sleepiness to finish her beauty slumber. About an hour later, Addie and I joined the boys who were sitting at the cabana bar outside the new Margaritaville (Jimmy Buffet’s bar…rumor has it the Grand Turk location is the largest location). Joel, Stephanie, Kaya and Marin were also there.
Margaritaville is surrounded by an over-sized meandering salt water pool. The pool didn’t look like it was quite ready for entry. The Noordam passengers seemed to begin entering the water as the day went on - driven more by each libation rather than the beckoning of the sparkling muddy salt water.
We ran into “Carnival Jack,” the project lead for getting the Grand Turk cruise center ready for accepting voyagers. Jack looked good and seemed happy to have most of this work behind him. When I inquired about how late he had stayed up the night before, he responded, “Nothing like some midnight landscaping.” By the looks of Grand Turk, Jack wasn’t the only one having to burn the midnight oil the previous evening. There were street signs that appeared out of nowhere (I dare you to try to find anyone around this island who knows the names of more than half a dozen roads), and a fountain literally sprouted right in the center of town. I suspect there was a whole load of duct tape involved in the finishing of these projects, but they did make the town look more inviting.
Margaritaville was filled with plenty of booze, but no working plumbing. The food available was catered and brought in from externally. But the DJ/host was unreal. He WAS Margaritaville. He held dance contests and drink-offs…and always looked for a Turk’s islander to be one of the contestants. He didn’t have too much trouble, because many were in attendance. We bore witness to a very overweight islander wearing a skin-tight purple outfit shake her booty against a 75-year-old great grandmother in a straw hat and pedal pushers. Fearing she had less to shake in her than the Turk’s islander, the great grandmother resorted to disrobing to a host of applause, and the dance-off resulted in a tie.
We heard plenty of non-cruisers commenting that they never thought they’d see something like this on sleepy little Grand Turk. Some of those comments came with enthusiasm, others came amid great disappiontment.
We were excited. And we’ll be there when the next cruise ship arrives. After all, if it weren’t for the cruise ships, then the Eichlers wouldn’t have the opportunity to live on this wonderfully crazy island for a while. And if you happen to find yourself on one of these cruise ships stopping off in Grand Turk, don’t look for me in any dance-offs! No one wants to see a pregnant woman shimmy.