Holland America Line New Years Cruise: Kicking Back in Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos

A beach with an excellent view (by Chris Giovanetti)
A beach with an excellent view (by Chris Giovanetti)

ABOARD MS WESTERDAM – There’s one sure way to stake a claim to beach umbrellas and securing a nice swath of soft sandy beach before some 2,000 passengers descend on the beach, and that’s to send a couple of scouts ahead. That’s exactly what we did when we woke up to our day in paradise in Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos.

While a host of excursions were offered including snorkel trips, ATV adventures, kayaking tours and even a helicopter flight, we had decided as a group to just laze on the beach on our first day in port, and I’m glad we did.

The perfect relaxation perch (by Chris Giovanetti)
The perfect relaxation perch (by Chris Giovanetti)

Fortunately, we were docked right by the beach so after an early, quick breakfast we sent my 12-year-old grandson Mateo, along with another member of our group to stake our claim to a nice patch of sand. It was a smart move because they were able to rent a couple of umbrellas – for $20 each, so not only were we assured a perfect perch, but we were guaranteed some shade – at least for a few hours.

The ship had very nicely provided large beach towels for us to take ashore, with a stern admonishment that if they weren’t returned, our on board account would be billed $27.50 for each missing one. Good to know!

Close to the ship there was a large area of shops selling everything from sun tan oil to liquor and local kitsch for anyone who felt the need to shop till they dropped while onshore. On the beach, vendors swung by periodically hawking cold drinks and further up the shore, small food stands sold snacks.

We were happy just vegging out and taking in the clear, tranquil waters of the Caribbean.

Gamblers hard at work
Gamblers hard at work

This was a fairly short stop and we needed to be back on board by 2:30 p.m. so I tore myself away from my soft perch just in time to avoid the onslaught of cruise passengers disembarking from a Carnival Cruise Line ship, which had just arrived. I’m was very glad that Westerdam got there first, or the beach would have been swamped and chaises and umbrellas very limited. Thankfully, cruise lines plan these stops very strategically.

I wanted to sneak back on board to take in some of the wonderful seminars they were offering. Dr. Joy was giving advice on “wrinkle remedies,” while someone in the spa was giving out “Secrets to a Flatter Stomach.” There was also an Acupuncture Seminar on “Back Pain Solutions.”

"Dueling" electronic violinists
“Dueling” electronic violinists

So many healthy solutions to learn about!

I made a mental note to hit the Swiss Watch Event at 4 p.m. and headed off to the delectable Indonesian Tea Ceremony in the Vista Dining Room. There’s a different tea “event” every day at the same time.

While I was there I met Sarah and Debby from Tennessee who couldn’t stop raving about the Westerdam – and the fact that there were daily masses!

“Did you know that Holland America is the only cruise line sea having a priest on board their ships? Sarah asked me. “You never know when you’ll need one, so I think that’s a good thing.”

I wasn’t sure how to respond to that, nor do I know if that’s an accurate statement, but it was obviously very important to them.

Towel art greets us at the end of the day
Towel art greets us at the end of the day

After we sailed away, I stopped to check on my friend Elly to see how she was doing at the Texas Hold ’em Tournament. The casino has grabbed a lot of her attention since we boarded. She claims not to be addicted to gambling, but I have my suspicions.

Tonight we’re dining in the Pinnacle Grill, which promises to be a memorable event. The surroundings, the décor – and the menu are simply outstanding.

After that we’ll head to Vista Lounge and “Synergy” featuring electric violinists, Jeff and Steve Neil.

An excellent finale to a perfect day!

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