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Old January 15th, 2008, 12:26 AM
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Z – Day 3- Grand Turk

The Zuiderdam arrived dockside in Grand Turk, and an announcement followed at 7:30 A.M. that the ship was cleared, and passengers could disembark the vessel. At the time I heard the announcement I disembarked my bed. I guess I wasn’t going to need the 9 A.M. wake up call I programmed the telephone for after all.

The cruise ship center at Grand Turk is a relatively new structure, with the pier, and of course, the requisite shopping area, obviously purpose built to attract the cruise ship industry.

If one longs to visit a Caribbean island, not yet transformed into a tourists “Caribbean theme park?, then Grand Turk fits the bill. Grand Turk has a permanent population of approximately 2500. However, if you’re not a diver, snorkeler, or otherwise inclined water bunny, there’s also not all that much allure to this island. Those who enjoy water based activities tell me the underwater life can be quite dramatic in this area.

There is a hop on, hop off bus available at the cruise ship center, for a cost of $40 per person. I thought the price was exorbitant, considering the island is quite small, and seemingly not that many points of interest. I was only half kidding when I asked the people selling the hop on hope off bus tickets if there was more than 1 stop.

We and the couple we’re traveling with opted to take a taxi to the “town center? – cost $5 per person. It was about a 4 minute ride to be dropped off by the Texaco gas station. And that is pretty close to the highlight of the area. The hot spot in town seems to be the Hookie Pookie Pizza Palace. We casually strolled through the town center, and got back to the Texaco just as our taxi driver got his vehicle out of the Texaco lot, where he’d dropped us off.

Not much doing in town, but they do have wonderful street signs.

There’s obviously a visionary leading the government here, because when the wild expansion of the tourist industry arrives they are prepared with great looking street signs.

Interestingly the government of the Turk & Caicos has been in talks with the government of Canada to encourage making these islands a part of Canada; the 11th province, if you will. The premise is to give Canadians a warm weather alternative vacation point that would still be “in? Canada. I believe discussions continue, with the local government even offering to switch to Canadian currency as their legal tender.

On the drive back to the pier we inquired of the taxi driver if there was anything else on the island we should see. He replied: “Nope?!

Back at the Cruise Ship Center- there is a large beach area, as well as a large version of Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, where we stopped for a superb Pina Colada. The place was very busy, and no one seemed to be trying to sneak their own liquor into the bar, even though prices are quite outrageous. Particularly impressive at the beach here is all the stunningly beautiful hues of blue as you gaze across the water. Today was also a day of perfect weather, with highs in the 80s, and clear skies, and calm waters.

We did find an unusual gallery amongst the shops here. It is called Bruno’s Arts. What’s surprising here is that the entire gallery is dedicated to the works of Frank Meisler. For those who don’t know the Meisler name, his works are amongst the most unusual and beautiful creations on earth… if you like that sort of thing.

Back onboard the Z by 1:30 P.M, for a 2 O’clock sail-a-way towards tomorrow’s stop in Tortola. There was a full sail-a-way party, complete with an excellent band, open air barbeque, serving barbequed salmon as well as chicken on skewers.

Speaking of chicken on skewers, a very pleasant Holland America tradition is the serving of hot, bite size, appetizers in several lounges onboard for those stopping in for pre-dinner drinks. We stopped before dinner in the Ocean’s Bar and they were serving large breaded shrimps, and duck spring rolls with plum sauce.

We’re now a few days into the cruise, so I suppose I can begin to express some opinions about the food. I’ve fallen in love with the deli section on Lido Deck for lunch. The Corned Beef on fresh rye bread is good, made even better when heated on the spot using the Panini Grills. But my favorite is their freshly made BLTs, piled with the extra bacon I ask for, and then the bread made slightly crispy using the Panini Grills.

To this point the food in the dining room has been quite good. I haven’t been wowed yet but any one meal, but it’s been good enough that I still hold out hope for a couple of meals to rave about. About the only limited complaint I have so far is the soups have been lukewarm, not hot.

Tonight featured “headline? entertainment at a pre-dinner show in the showroom. Joel Jason was quite entertaining with a tribute to Elton John, including extravagant costuming ala Elton John. His was a high energy act, mixed with comic banter, and the audience loved the show. My lack of appreciation of almost anything musical makes me unqualified to talk about his musical talent, but I did appreciate the showmanship and energy.

After the show we stopped in the casino for an hour or so. I’ve now got to know some of the casino staff, and those who I have met are a fun and friendly crew; somewhat surprisingly more so than when I last sailed on Carnival back in November. One would assume the “fun ships? would have the more “fun? casino staff.

For table game players, you’ll be happy to know that unlike the Carnival ships, which are also owned by Carnival Corporation, the Holland America ships casinos have not switched over to the automatic continuous shuffling machines.

After leaving the casino, I made a point of stopping by the Piano Bar, as I had yet to visit. There was a sizeable crowd enjoying drinks and the sing-along, even as it close to midnight. I didn’t stay tonight, but I do intend to make the time to sit in for a longer visit before the cruise ends.

We move our clocks forward one hour tonight, so it’s an “it’s later than you think? night. The ship isn’t scheduled to arrive in Tortola until 1 P.M, so the time change is slightly less relevant not having to get up early in the morning.

And we're looking forward to our reservations tomorrow evening in the Pinnacle, the ships alternate ($30 per person surcharge) restaurant.
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