Mitsugirlys MITSUGIRLY decides to CONQUEST new ports-complete pictorial review
Day 4: Grand Turk
DAY 3 on the ship: GRAND TURK 7-2pm
So, today is Sakari's 9th birthday. As I said before, we didn't tell her that her birthday fell at the time of the cruise. We hadn't mentioned it to her yet....
This was going to be a short port day (hate those) and we have been here twice already. It's such a small little island and I knew I wanted something new to do here. After researching, I found that there are tours that will take you to a little remote island called "Gibbs Caye" and it's known for having stingrays that swim right up to the beach. Although we have swam with the stingrays at the sandbar in Grand Cayman a few times, and also encountered stingrays while snorkeling from the beach at other places, this seemed like the best options to do something "different" other than just a beach. So, I started my research to see which company provided these services.
When contacting BOHIO, I was a little put off by their responses when asking questions. In the end, they told me there was a minimum of $450.00 to go!!! Say what??? THEN they told me "
We could not offer you a Gibbs Cay Excursion at this time as it is always subject to weather and availability . If you would like to contact us
closer to your arrival date, we could check for availability for this trip."
Wait, what? Seriously? If they tell this to everyone inquiring about this trip, how do they gather enough people to do it? I would also be responsible for catching and paying for a cab to get to their facility. For a planner like me, I have to know exactly what I'm doing and can't wait until I get there to figure it out. Well, they lost my business.
Someone on the boards suggested Grand Turk Diving and stated that they meet you right on the beach, down from the cruise port. So, I contacted them. They had excellent communication and the cost was $88/pp. We made a 50% deposit and the rest was paid after the tour. So, I booked.
They did say this tour offered 2 snorkeling stops at "the wall" and then on to Gibbs. Honestly, I only wanted the Gibbs Caye portion, but they said it was all included in the price, unless I wanted to do a private tour. I really don't care for snorkeling from a boat for some reason. When I snorkel, I would much rather do it from the beach. There's also something about a wall or "drop off" that kinda freaks me out. So, I wasn't too thrilled about this portion of the tour...especially with Sakari, who thinks she can do anything and I battle with her to use a life jacket.
I set the alarm and headed for the shower that morning. When I got out, I had a message for Sakari to break the news to her.
She was so excited! She finally gets a birthday cruise!! The joy in her face was just priceless. Then I told her "guess what we are doing for your birthday other than going to the beach? STINGRAYS!!" Super happy child here I tell ya.
The kids club had sent her this:
Although I am super confused about the "Celebrate with cake, candles and a whole lot of fun" because they didn't do anything with her like this???
It was still kinda dark outside...I mean it is still very early in the morning.
We headed for breakfast and I had my "normal" breakfast.
After breakfast, we bumped into Thrilled and munchkins and Sakari took a pic of her new friend she just adores.
We were off the ship by 7:15 and headed to our assigned location for pick up.
The paparazzi swarmed us "Mitsugirly, mitsugirly, can we get a picture of you?"
Even the towel animals wanted a picture
It looked to me like they have cleared off a little more on this side of the beach? Or have I just not noticed it before?
I don't remember them having clam shells there either last time.
The hubbs decided he had to "potty" and we headed for the restrooms. Just like a kid sometimes, don't go before you leave the ship. LOL So I took this opportunity to take a few pictures before it got too crowded in port.
The birthday girl
Then we headed out to the beach.
As we walked down the beach, our instructions said they would be on the beach at 8:15am, walk down the beach, past the flow riders, and past the Santa Maria Casino. We were told to look for the boat that said GT Diving and it would have a red bimini top.
As we walked, nothing fit that description so we decided to sit down at some lounge chairs they were putting out. I told the hubby you had to pay for them, but he sat down anyhow. They did not say anything but I did ask if they sold pop and decided to contribute something to them. Their pop was $2.00 each and they also gave us cups with ice as well.
Of course Sakari couldn't wait to get in the water and off she went.
We started talking to the staff there and they said that GTD usually parked on down and pointed down the beach. We decided to go ahead and walk a little bit more because we seen a lot of boats on down by Jack's Shack.
After waiting there for some time, and no boat coming that fit the description they gave us, I started to get worried. 8:15am and come and gone and it was already 8:30am. I tried to email them several times with no luck.
We spoke to someone else on the beach, who said that they usually dock (and pointed) back the other way again.
I was tired of walking, I was confused, it was now sprinkling. Ok, let's head back down the way we originally came and wait. If no boat by 9am, I'm calling this a bust and we'll just find a spot on the beach to stay for the day.
Along came a friend for Sakari:
Boats everywhere...just not ours.
(When you use the miniature feature on the camera, the one that makes things look like a tilt shift picture with the blur at the top or bottom, it always enhances the picture and colors...although the skies had a lot of clouds and it sprinkled off and on that morning, it was not storming as it appears in the picture above.)
As we walked back down the beach, we stopped at a different location and of course the hubby sat down once again. This time the lady wasn't so friendly and wanted money for the chair. About that time, we started to see 2 boats with red bimini tops. Was it them? Did they finally show up? We got up and immediately a man told us "Don't pay any attention to her, you can sit here for free" but...our boat had finally arrived and it was now 8:45am.
There was another family of 9 people that had also been waiting for this tour, but I guess they weren't as enthusiastic about looking for the boat and made the smart move to stay put where they were instead of pacing the beach like we did looking for the boat.
There were 2 boats and the family immediately jumped in one and we took the other. That meant we were getting our own private boat! Works for me!
We pulled out a little and went over our equipment and what was going to happen and then pulled out for our first snorkeling spot.
We pulled right around to the other side of the ship and they killed the engines. I guess this is it. I really didn't see much coral (black areas under us). We were told this was the spot and geared up. Of course I was battling it out with Sakari to put her life jacket on. She just does not like to wear them and our guide made the mistake of saying "it's optional". In the end, I won with the "well, you won't go then."
I went in first and then Sakari.
One of the main reasons I really don't care for snorkeling by boat is the distance from the top of the water to the bottom. When you are on the top, it's really hard to see all the way down and it's very hard to get nice pictures. The further up you are, the bluer the pictures are and they are not clear. I like being up close and getting shots so that you can see what you are taking pictures of and this was just frustrating. There really wasn't much to see and I was battling Sakari and trying to keep her close to me without swimming off.
It's just not my idea of a good snorkeling experience. I don't know what my issue was with my finger in the way of the pictures. It just kept happening.
At some point, I lost track of the hubby and it was just Sakari and I. She kept going away from me and it wasn't a good experience. I motioned her to come back and then somehow we ended up around the back of the boat where the rope was. I seen her holding on to it and struggling. The life jacket was coming up above her head and she couldn't see. I also don't like these snorkeling vest that you blow up. They are uncomfortable, go over your face, the strap hurts your "privates" and you are constantly pulling them down.
The water was a little choppy and Sakari was still holding on to the rope and struggling with her life jacket above her face. She said she wanted to go back. She kept holding the line and I pushed her along the way and tried to pull the jacket down so that she could see.
Our guide ask us if she was ok and I told him I was taking her back to the boat.
Once we were back on the boat and the others returned, the hubby informed me that we were "in the wrong area" and he had headed to the wall with the other group and it was beautiful. Well, I didn't exactly know "where" we were supposed to go or "where" this wall was and I was busy following Sakari to make sure she was safe. Of course he didn't have a camera on him...sigh
Our guide said there was another wall snorkeling spot they usually go to but it was entirely up to us what we wanted to do. I informed him that when I originally inquired about this tour that I really only booked it for the Gibbs Caye island. If we could skip the other snorkeling, that would be great. He said he was at our disposal and we could do whatever we wanted.
We all agreed we were Gibbs Caye bound then.
I think he could see the frustration in my face and decided to cheer me up and told me I was going to take us there!
Does life get any better than this? Driving a boat in the beautiful crystal clear blue waters and a diet Coke in my hand!
The ship in the distance:
Along the way, we spotted a pod of dolphins. Of course by the time I got my camera out, they had gotten a little further away, so I took a video. It's really hard to see their fins come up and we were moving so fast, so I tried to mark the area they came up and slow the video down some. You'd probably have to expand the video to get a better look. But hey, it was an exciting experience to see them out there in the wild.
When we arrived at Gibbs, there were 2 other tour boats there. However, they were getting ready to leave and we would end up being there by ourselves for quite some time.
Immediately Sakari broke out the mermaid fin.
They did provide us with ice cold drinks and that was a plus for me of course.
The island is a little deserted island that no one owns (but maybe the government he said). But he did say that it could be purchased for $x million.
I absolutely love these little deserted islands with next to nothing there. It's the rustic type with no facilities, food or drinks. Just a deserted little island to explore and enjoy.
There were hundreds of little fish everywhere swimming with us...but no sign of stingrays yet.
Then we spotted our first small stingray (male) coming up to the shore.
Then the bigger female rays would arrive.
Of course Sakari had her camera with her and she managed to take this very unflattering picture of me. A normal person probably wouldn't post/show it, but hey, we're an open book and goofiness is our game.
(Notice I made Sakari her very own watermark to let others know which pictures she took).
There were several trunk fish swimming with us.
Sakari just loves animals and nature so much. She sometimes worries me getting too close. I kept telling her to stay away from the barb and not make them feel threatened. She would swim right along side of them and with that mermaid tail, she did a pretty good job keeping up with them.
Before long, there were just stingrays everywhere. They just come right up to you.
This place really isn't known for it's snorkeling, due to a sandy bottom and sea grass, but it's sometimes good to divert to something different.
Sakari was having fun with her camera too, but I forgot to tell her to put it on the underwater setting and she hasn't learn to operate it past the turning it on and snapping a picture phase.
I decided to head out and take some pictures. The hubby was busy talking "business" with the guide and they were engaged in a serious conversation at the moment.
I seen another boat pull up and people get out.
Our ship in the distance
See the lizard in the picture?
The hubby started yelling and motioning me to "come". I didn't make it very far at that point, but headed back to see what was going on.
The other groups guide had caught a stingray for others to hold and have their pictures taken with it.
Sakari was happy to show off her mermaid tail and skills to everyone that arrived at the island.
She came up and was sitting in the water and the stingrays approached her several times to check her fin out.
The one thing I don't like about this newer camera is that it takes super crappy pano pictures. The older models are much better at stitching them together.
The hubby and I decided to take a walk along the beach
Beautiful sand and water
He's game for all the cheesy photos I take.
We were in a different area than where the boats are docked and there were stingrays over there too.
The other half of our group finally arrived.
Their guide caught a stingray for them to hold too. I'm not sure why ours didn't. He just sat on the boat almost the entire time.
Gotta kiss the stingray for good luck. At this point, I think Sakari should have about 21 years of good luck from all the stingray kissing she has done over the years.
This family was getting a family picture done...I guess they adopted Sakari at this point and I ask her if she had a new family. She just giggled.
After everyone had a chance to kiss and hold the stingray, they let her go.
But I wasn't done. I had over heard the guide talking about how easy they are to catch, how to do it, and how heavy they are too. I decided I would try it on my own. I was successful in getting her to let me hold her one last time. Man was she HEAVY!! And HUGE!
Mitsugirly the stingray wrestler.
I gently let her go and she stayed there for awhile, probably wondering if that was the last of the attention she was going to get from all of us and then slowly swam away. It's a good day when you can say you actually caught your own stingray.
More attempts of trying to get a pano..still not working out well.
I looked around and seen some arms frantically waving at me from the hill. It was Sakari, she was walking up, as she had seen some others go up that way, and I headed off to try to catch up with her and see the sites.
There's a little path that shows you where to head up at.
The cactus plants were starting to bud. Oh how I wish they would have been blooming already.
I really hate walking uphill. I get out of breath and I'm so out of shape. Some other kids were coming up the hill and I had to make an excuse to stop and take a picture so they would go around me.
It was beautiful up there.
Look how rough the water was on the other side of the island. Yet it was so calm on the side we were on.
We decided to head back down and going down is always easier than going up.
My floating child. She thinks she's a bird at times, this proves either she's part bird or she can levitate.
Ahh, back to normal...
Sakari having one last swim and you can see some of the rays in the background, still swimming along the shore.
It was around 11:45am and it was time to head back. We hated to leave this little slice of paradise and we had a good day. Our tour was supposed to be 3 hours long. As anyone knows that has done any type of tour, the time they give you is usually from start to finish. Ours started at 8:45 and it was now 11:50am. Oops, looks like we are getting a little more time and we still had the ride back. No complaints here.
We packed up our things and climbed on board and away both of our groups went.
Our tour guide said he was originally from Cuba I believe. I have the worse memory. He told us a lot of facts and information about the island, himself, the company and his jobs. I just can't remember all of it.
Within site of the ship now.
It looks like Sakari took the same picture, only closer.
She managed to get a really good picture of th whale tale.
By the time we pulled back up to the beach, it was 12:15 and our tour had officially ended with a total time of 3.5 hours.
On our way back to the port, Sakari noticed some horses and had to go take some pictures.
We decided to head to the pool for awhile. There wasn't much time left in port and we were going to push it to the max.
We put our things down and headed into the FRESH water. Ahh...no more salty skin.
Well hello there hubs up there above the water looking down at me!
I was captured.
While swimming, we managed to locate Thrilled and fam and hung out with them for awhile and then decided it was time to do a little shopping before heading back to the ship.
I had told Sakari, since it was her birthday, I would allow her to pick out something special from one of the gift shops. After that, we were on a mad hunt to find the "perfect" gift. We shopped and shopped and shopped and then I just started picking up things "Here, what about this? It's pretty"..."nope". "Well what about this cute little thing?"...."nope". I didn't think it would ever end. Then the hubby spotted it...the perfect gift. However, we weren't going to "suggest" it as we had been doing. We were afraid it might jinx us. So we followed her until she spotted it, looked at each other, and we knew....she started jumping up and down..."this is it, this is it, I want this". Mission accomplished!