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Returning To Grand Turk Cruise Port After The Hurricanes

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When Hurricanes Maria and Irma devastated several of the Caribbean ports most loved by cruisers, we worried. Many of us have formed a strong bond with the islands. We have made friends on St. Thomas and marveled at the beauty of Grand Turk. And in the wake of the hurricanes, we — and the cruise lines — did what we could to show our support for those impacted.

In the weeks since, we’ve gotten status updates from the islands and the cruise lines as to how the impacted ports are doing, but you know what they say: Seeing is believing. So when presented with the opportunity to be on Holland America’s Eurodam when it became one of the first cruise ships to return to Grand Turk, I was excited… and also nervous. What would I find? Would passengers actually get off the ship? Would those who did disembark find Grand Turk ready to receive guests and offer them a satisfying experience?

Returning To Grand Turk

The weather was gloomy as the Eurodam arrived, but that didn’t stop people from getting off the ship. Before long, thousands of passengers — from my ship as well as the Carnival Sensation — had disembarked and began making their way across the island. Some headed off on shore excursions while others wandered toward the nearby beach. With a smile and a sigh, I realized that Grand Turk was more than just ready… they were open for business.

That’s not to say that evidence doesn’t remain of the horrific storms which pounded the island. Walking down the beach, you can see — just beyond the rows of newly-planted palm trees — that construction workers are trying to replace roofs that were blown off buildings and repair fences that were knocked down.

Grand Turk

The Grand Turk Cruise Center looks untouched with the exception of freshly-planted vegetation. Venture too far beyond the cruise pier, and you can tell that a storm paid the island a visit. But you also see, everywhere you look, proof that the residents of Grand Turk have united and picked up the pieces.

“Cruise tourism has been down since the storms,” one local shop owner told me. “It’s like the cruise passengers think we were wiped off the map. But we are here,  and we are very much open.” This was not, after all, the first time the island has been through a bad storm. She reminded me that they’d been hit hard by Hurricane Ike back in 2008, and they’d rebounded from that, just as they would from this.

Grand Turk

I eventually made my way to Jack’s Shack, a beachside bar that’s a short 10-minute walk from the cruise terminal and popular with tourists from around the world. Construction workers were on hand, rebuilding what looked to be a dive shop. Jack himself had run out to buy supplies for the project, which wasn’t about to keep the bar from being open for business.

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Grand Turk

Interviewing Jack in Grand Turk.

A sense of tranquility came over me as I approached the bar and was greeted by Topher — the island’s unofficial mascot and the world’s most photographed dog. (And yes, of course I had to snap a selfie with the beloved pooch!) Settling in with a tropical concoction, I chatted with some of the islanders to get a first-hand perspective on how the recovery was going.

Grand Turk

“When the first few ships came back,” admitted a local cook, “we didn’t have power and were doing everything with generators. But now, the power is restored to 90 percent of the island.” As if to prove just how good-to-go things are, I was served some of the best jerk chicken I’ve ever had in my life. And I’ve eaten my share of jerk chicken over the years… and probably your share, too.

Grand Turk

Next Stop: Margaritaville

One of the things I love about returning to places I’ve visited in the past is having traditions. Where Grand Turk is concerned, that includes a visit to Margaritaville on the way back to the ship. The Pina coladas were flowing and the music was pumping. And that was true for each of the venues I passed while walking down the beach as I headed back to the Eurodam. Shops were open, people were having fun, and the island vibe was in full effect.

The islands had been through hell and back… with an emphasis on back.

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Cruise Trends You Will See in 2018

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The 2018 State of the Cruise Industry Outlook was released by the Cruise Line International Association. The upcoming year will certainly be a big year for the cruise industry as current data shows cruise travel is steadily on the rise. A projected 27.2 million passengers expected to set sail in 2018!

Top Nine Cruise Trends for 2018

1. All Budgets Will Cruise 

There is a cruise for every budget, from a $159 quick weekend getaway to the Bahamas to a $40,000 three-month round-the-world cruise on a luxury line. Cruising is no longer only for the wealthy and the price of cruising has leveled out making it accessible to every household.

2. Transformational Cruise Travel 

This could be anything that transforms your cruise experience. From cultural immersion and voluntourism to extreme adventures, those returning from a cruise will have shift in perspective and a sense of accomplishment. Some upcoming cruise itineraries include the opportunity to indulge in local cuisine, guided tours through small villages and even visits inside private homes. Thrill-seekers can fill bucket lists with chances to swim with sharks in South Africa, ride a Harley Davidson in Alaska or mingle among penguins in the Arctic.

3. Sustainability at Sea 

Most cruise lines have an excellent record for being environmentally friendly, and now that’s involving cruise guests. Travelers can look forward participating in sustainable practices both onboard and off from recycling and waste management to popular voluntourism initiatives that focus on creating a positive environmental and social impact at destinations around the globe.

4. Millennials Take to the River

River and small ship cruising continues to gain traction among travelers, specifically the Millennial set. With ever-expanding itineraries and destination experiences that reach far beyond walking and coach tours and endless options for the perfect “Instagram moment,” the younger generation is embracing river cruising.

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5. Skip-Gen Cruising

Multigenerational cruising is projected to increase in popularity. But there’s a twist: “skip-generation” trips, with grandparents and grandchildren traveling together without their parents, are predicted to be highly popular in 2018 and beyond.

6. Travelers Seek Chilly Destinations 

The coming year is projected to see an increase in popularity of colder climate destinations including the Baltics, Canada, Alaska, and Antarctica. With an array of unique excursion options, from penguin watching to ice fishing, these winter wonder destinations are drawing in both new and repeat cruise travelers.

7. Healthy Doses

Travelers are seeking health and wellness trips more than ever before and the cruise industry is responding with services and experiences for the mind and body. Today’s cruise travelers can participate in onboard health wellness seminars led by popular health experts, custom fitness programs, stress management, and spa services. There are even entire cruise itineraries dedicated to weight management and healthy living including Weight Watchers cruises and menus for a variety of dietary needs from diabetic-friendly to plant-based.

8. Smart Travel Technology— The coming year there will be a rise in traveler-friendly onboard technologies. Several cruise lines are introducing wearable technology for cruise guests that provide a personalized and seamless experience while onboard. Ranging from keychains to bracelets to necklaces and more, wearable technology on cruises interacts with sensors on the ship in order to do everything from turning the lights on as a cruiser approaches their cabin to acting as a security agent.

READ MORE: 13 Ways Technology Has Changed Cruising

9. Tapping Travel Agents – Travel agents continue to see a steady demand from consumers in planning and executing vacations. Some of the largest factors behind continued popularity of travel agents? Ease of planning, valued expertise, and affordability.

What trends do you think we’ll see in 2018?

Featured image via Carnival Cruise Line

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Princess Cruises Sale Offering $99/Person/Day Fares

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The Caribbean is back up and running, and to celebrate Princess Cruises is offering their best fares of the season for the “Exclusively Caribbean Sale” on 7, 8, 10, and 14-day cruises departing February through April 2018.

Photo via Princess Cruises

With rates starting as low as $99 per guest per day, free gratuities, and third and fourth guest fares starting at $15 a day, escape the winter chill and head to the Caribbean for a sun-drenched vacation. Fares are based on double occupancy and are available in select stateroom categories and sailings. Gratuities added to bar charges, dining room wine accounts, or spa services aren’t included in the free gratuities.

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Princess Cruises’ “Exclusively Caribbean Sale” is running now through December 26, 2017 and is available for residents of the United States, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Canada, and Bermuda who are 21 and older. Visit princess.com/deals for more details.

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Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Fascination Will Be Upgraded in 2018

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It was announced today that the Carnival Fascination will undergo a multi-million dollar dry dock in 2018 that will enhance the ship’s public areas.

The spaces will be added during a two-week dry dock taking place Feb. 4-17, 2018, in Freeport, The Bahamas, prior to the ship resuming its year-round schedule of seven-day southern Caribbean cruises from San Juan, Puerto Rico, beginning Feb. 18, 2018.

“We can’t wait for our guests to experience these exciting new features aboard Carnival Fascination when she returns to her year-round homeport of San Juan early next year,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line, adding that other Carnival ships began visiting San Juan as a port of call Nov. 30.

The new food and beverage options aboard Carnival Fascination include:

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  • Guy’s Burger Joint: a free-of-charge poolside venue developed in partnership with Food Network personality Guy Fieri serving hand-crafted burgers and fresh-cut fries enjoyed amidst a décor that celebrates the chef’s California roots and love of car culture.
  • RedFrog Rum Bar: a poolside watering hole offering the quintessential Caribbean vacation vibe with refreshing Caribbean rum-based frozen drinks and beers, including Carnival’s own private label draught brew, ThirstyFrog Red.
  • BlueIguana Cantina: a complimentary poolside Mexican eatery where guests can enjoy authentic freshly made burritos and tacos on homemade tortillas, as well as an elaborate toppings and salsa bar.
  • BlueIguana Tequila Bar: a fun and festive outdoor bar offering a laid-back Mexican-themed atmosphere and tequila-based frozen drinks and beers, perfect for chillin’ by the pool.
  • Cherry on Top: The “sweetest spot on board,” Cherry on Top is the gateway to the joys of simple indulgences with bins of bulk candy, fun-and-fanciful gifts, just-because novelties, colorful custom apparel and more.
  • Alchemy Bar: a vintage-themed cocktail “pharmacy” that’s the go-to spot for guests seeking a unique experience with mixologists who “prescribe” concoctions from different elixirs and ingredients or guests’ own custom-created cocktails.
  • Bonsai Sushi Express: the success of the full-service Bonsai Sushi restaurants has spawned this casual, convenient yet equally tasty offshoot featuring a mouth-watering array of sushi, sashimi, rolls and more.

Carnival Fascination is currently being chartered to FEMA to house relief workers in St. Croix.

Source: Carnival

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