Day #13: Wednesday, February 24
As I mentioned yesterday, we had a later arrival time in Grand Turk than we had in any other port, so even though we had an incredible excursion planned, we were able to sleep in a bit. We didn't dock in Grand Turk until noon, so we relaxed around the cabin for a bit in the morning then got lunch at the pizza place on the ship before heading out onto the island.
When we got into port, the first thing we did was my souvenir shopping. I found a magnet right away, but I had a terrible time finding postcards. Only two places had them at all, and the selection was awful. But, I made do and found a place to buy stamps, then it was time to meet up with our tour: HORSEBACK RIDING ON THE BEACH!
I was so, so excited about this tour. This was definitely the excursion I was most looking forward to. I loved all the other tours we did, too, of course. We did some amazing things. But horseback riding on the beach has been on my list since before people even MADE lists. I have wanted to do this for years and years. Every time Eric and I went to the Caymans, I would say "we have to look into doing this" but it just never worked out. So, when I saw this tour listed on the brochure for Grand Turk, I told Heather WE ARE ABSOLUTELY DOING THIS ONE. I would have gone by myself if I had to.
But, I didn't have to go by myself at all! I was so relieved when I learned Heather did not have rehearsal on Grand Turk day, and her friend Leisel even decided to join us.When it was time to meet up with the tour, Leisel was already waiting for us at the check-in spot. We signed some waivers, then got on a bus to travel across the island to the Chukka horse stables.
On the way the bus driver gave us some information about the island. Apparently Grand Turk used to be a salt-mining island, although that does not seem to be the case anymore. The island is only seven miles long and one mile wide, with a population of less than 4,000 people. Compare that to my island - the island of Manhattan - which is just about twice that size (about 13.5 miles long and 2.5 miles wide), but with an estimated population (as of 2008) of 1.6 million. Wow...now there's a difference. Another difference between the island of Manhattan and the island of Grand Turk (besides the weather) is that in Grand Turk, there are no stoplights. Not one. Our driver informed us the only "stoplights" are the wild horses, cows, goats, mules and donkeys that may wander into the road. Yeah, that's different than New York! And indeed, as we drove along, we saw many wild horses and a few wild cows.
The island was pretty devastated by Hurricane Ike a few years ago, and much of it looked somewhat rundown or abandoned. It made me think of the Caymans - after they got hit by Ivan, much of the island looked similar. I wish I could remember exactly what our driver told us about how many people of Grand Turk lost everything, but my Googling yields estimates that anywhere between 80-95% of all homes were destroyed. How awful.
On a lighter note, one feature of the island that I thought was cool was they had areas of freshwater in the middle (our driver said it was rainwater), and there was a concrete bridge crossing it. But, the bridge was just barely above water level and there were no rails or anything on the sides. So, it just looked like the cars were driving on the water. It was kind of crazy!
After about 20-30 minutes, we arrived at the stables. They gave us helmets and some instructions, then put us on our horses. My horse was named One Drop.
Once everyone was on their horses, they had us ride around in an enclosed area to get the feel for it, then we all rode in a single-file line along a trail along the beach. Sometimes we went up and downhill and had to lean accordingly. The guides took our cameras to take pictures of us as we rode, and they continued to tell us about the island as well. It was so gorgeous - the beach we rode on was totally private, with no other souls in sight. Just us, our horses, and the beautiful scenery.
Gorgeous! (You can see my horse's ears, and that's Heather in front of me and Leisel in front of her)
After the beach ride, we went back to the stables so the guides could re-saddle our horses for the next phase of our ride: the water ride! When we arrived back at the stables, we quickly learned that Leisel's horse must be the mother to the pony we saw roaming around, because as soon as we got there, that pony came running right up to Leisel's horse to nurse! Leisel was pretty surprised, to say the least.
They split our tour group into two groups for the water ride. We were in the second group, so we watched the first group go before us and it looked so great - we could hardly wait to do it for ourselves!
When the first group got back we put our life preserver belts on and got back on the horses. They had taken off the regular saddles and replaced them with little more than a lightly-cushioned pad, so it felt almost like riding bareback. You could feel the horse's spine as you rode, and there were no stirrups so you just had to grip the horse with your legs to stay put.
We rode down to the beach and into the water. As soon as we got into the water, the horses just started running. It was so incredible. They just ran and the water splashed around us and it was unbelievable. I just can't even find the words to accurately portray how amazing it was, and even the pictures don't do it justice. This definitely also goes on my list of "Coolest Things I Have Ever Done."
We're in the water! Again, you can see my horse's ears in the foreground, and that's Heather on the left and Leisel on the right.
The guide sort of cut Heather off in this picture, but I love it. This picture most accurately demonstrates how we all felt as we rode.
That water ride was so incredible, I didn't want it to end. But, it did, and that ended the whole tour. We got back on the bus and they took us back to port. What an experience, though!
By that time we had all worked up a bit of an appetite, so we stopped at Margaritaville for a late lunch. I had cracked conch and fries, finally - I had been wanting conch through the whole cruise! We also had margaritas, of course, because what else would you do at Margaritaville? We had such a wonderful, relaxing time, just sitting in the sun, eating delicious food and sipping margaritas. Again I ask you, why do I not live there and do that everyday?
As we finished up lunch I filled out Eric's last postcard of the trip and went to mail it, then we all went to the beach for about a half hour before we had to get back on the ship. Grand Turk is so nice because the beach is literally RIGHT THERE when you get off the ship - no taxis, no shuttles, no boats - just get off the ship and turn left and BEACH. The sun was getting low in the sky and the ship was right in front of us, reminding me that soon we had to get back on there and end the trip. NO. I just did not want to leave! But, Heather had to be back on board by 5:30, so it had to happen. Farewell, beach.
As Heather got ready for her last show of the cruise, I did my usual routine for the last time: went up to Deck 15 to take pictures of the port.
Heather's last show (another showing of "Do You Wanna Dance") was at 7:45, and Heather's friend Ryan was actually able to sit and watch that show with me. Finally! I watched 14 out of 15 shows alone, so it was nice to have company.
After the show we went back to the cabin to get ready for a night out. We got all dressed up then went for wine and cheese night in the Wardie with many people from the cast. We drank delicious wine and ate delicious cheese until around 10:30, when we all went to the Vista Lounge to see comedian Carl Strong, who was very funny.
After the comedy show we went up to Skywalkers for a night at the club with Leisel, Ryan, Andrew, Peter and Nikki. We sat in a nice corner and had a great time. I finally got to try the famous Jammy Donut shot everyone had been telling me about. Delicious! We talked and danced and enjoyed the night out.
Jammy Donuts with some great Grand Princess people: Leisel, Heather, me, Nikki, Peter, Andrew and Ryan
Around 3:00 a.m. the club closed, so we made our way back downstairs. When we got back to the cabin, we got ready for bed and totally crashed. What a fabulous day!
Up next: the trip winds down with our last day at sea, and return to Ft. Lauderdale. How sad!
Don't forget to check out the rest of the Grand Turk pictures on the photo share site!