Cruise Excursions – Turks, Snorkeling, and Stingrays!

I had always longed to go to Turks and Caicos but it was cost prohibitive at the time, so it was only fitting that the first cruise I ever took would stop there. My three port cruise sailed out of Miami and docked first in Turks and Caicos, then Half Moon Cay, Bahamas, and finally Nassau, Bahamas.

We set sail for our five day adventure supplied with two exciting excursion packages (one for Turks and Caicos and the other for Half Moon Cay). I woke up on day 1 excited because I was finally going to be able to scratch this island off of my bucket list via a booked stingray and snorkeling excursion. These activities were perfect for the crystal clear waters surrounding these paradise islands.

After disembarking the ship, we were instructed to wait at the port by the stingray sign. Carnival3The port had several souvenir shops for cruisers to explore as well as a beach for those who just wanted to relax on the sea shore. Our tour guide arrived and explained what we were going to be doing for the day. We then followed him to a small boat where we all boarded and took a seat. I had never snorkeled before and I have to admit I was starting to feel a bit nervous about it. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it or not because I am not the strongest swimmer. But, as the short boat ride took us around the island it allowed for some time to reflect and to take in the gorgeous tropical views. The boat crew was very friendly, funny, and cared about our safety. Captain Stumpy (yes, that’s what he told us to call him!) gave us specific safety instructions, which you will soon find out that I should have explicitly followed…

We reached the snorkeling destination and people started to get off the boat and into the water. My friend who had accompanied me on the excursion was more nervous than I was about snorkeling but did not let it stop her. She got right in and started swimming away, enjoying the views under the sea. Cue the “Under the Sea” song from The Little Mermaid movie – “Under the sea, under the sea… Darling its better, down where its wetter, take it from me… Up on the shore they work all day, out in the sun, they slave away”. 🙂 I decided not to wear the flippers because I could not walk in those awkward things and was afraid I would fall if I took another step. So, I took them off and started to go down the stairs of the boat facing the water. Note that Captain Stumpy had given very clear instructions to face the water when going down the stairs and wearing flippers. P1020391But, was I wearing flippers? No!  Should I have been facing the water? No! Should I have practiced the standard ladder safety that I was taught at work and instead faced the ladder since I was no longer wearing flippers? Yes!! I am sure at this point you may be asking why I should have faced the ladder… Well, it’s because as I was descending the stairs my foot slipped and my toe hooked onto the ladder railing, but my body ignored my tangled toe and kept moving forward into the water! As my body splashed into the sea, I felt a horrible pain shoot up from my stupid toe all the way to my knee. All I can remember thinking after I said a few expletives to myself was, “Well, that can’t be good.” I swam a few strokes, put my face in the water and started to panic. Between the pain and not liking trying to breathe through the blasted snorkel mask, I just doggie paddled my way on back to the boat. 😦 At this point, Captain Stumpy saw the fear of death on my face and motioned for me to take off my mask. Thank goodness because that made all of the difference and I stopped panicking. As I was walking up the ladder to go sit down and inspect my aching toe, Captain Smarty, I mean Stumpy said, “I thought you said you could swim?” With an evil eye I responded back with, “I made it back to the boat didn’t I?” We both laughed and then he called me over to watch him throw food around the snorkelers to attract fish towards them. This was a fun distraction from the pain because the snorkelers had no idea why a bunch of fish were suddenly all around them. Needless to say, the first part of my excursion was an epic fail. I sat and watched my friend, who was more nervous than I was, swim out to sea like a champ as if she had been doing it for years.

The second part of this outing was a meet and greet with the stingrays. The boat took us to a little island that is part of the Turks and Caicos chain. I got off of the boat with both excitement and throbbing pain as the sand shifted under my poor toe with each step I took to meet these friendly sea creatures. We all huddled around the stingray whisperer as he explained a bit about these gentle rays in their habitat, what to touch and not touch, how to position ourselves to hold them, and how to lean in for a kiss if we so dared. Lucy is a stingray that seems to love attention and wants you to hold her. She can be a bit demanding and might nibble on the stingray whisperer from time to time if he doesn’t pick her up.

After meeting Lucy, our adventure was complete and we all headed back to the port to do as we pleased until the ship left for the next destination, the Bahamas. It was around lunch time so we asked the boat crew for a spot to eat where locals frequent. They said that they were heading to one and that they would take us. What I liked about this crew was their island diversity; they were from Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and Turks and Caicos. They led us to a spot called “Jack’s Shack” where we ate a yummy lunch and drank some refreshing drinks. I ordered the jerk chicken and my friend ordered conch fritters.  We stuffed our faces while listening to reggae music, talking about the island culture, and looking out at the cruise ship and the sea. It was a great way to end my Turks and Caicos excursion and also momentarily forget about my throbbing broken toe.

Cruise Tips

  • Motion Sickness – Bring something for motion sickness even if you do not think you need it (wrist bands, oral medication… just pick something).
  • Carry-On Bags – Bring items that you might want right away on board with you.  Your luggage may not be delivered to your room for a while.  A swimsuit, sunscreen, and a change of clothes are good examples.
  • Hand Sanitizer – If you are a germaphobe, I would have this with you at all times.
  • Port Departures – Return to the ship much earlier than when you are told to return.  You don’t want to be left behind crying as you watch Goliath set sail without you.
  • Packing Beverages – Read the instructions regarding what types of beverages you can take with you and whether you have to pack it in your suitcase or can take it as a carry-on.
  • Prices – Pay attention to what is included in your vacation package.  Often times, excursions, certain foods and beverages, and spa treatments are extra.
  • Tipping – I opted to pay for tips in advance so that I would not have to worry about it while on vacation.
  • Excursions – Follow their instructions!

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