Cruise arrivals to Turks and Caicos rose substantially in the first 10 months of 2023, and total visitors by air and sea broke the 1 million mark, an achievement that local tourism officials say bodes extremely well for the upcoming winter high season.
Cruise Guests Jump By 30% Versus 2022
The Grand Turk Cruise Center welcomed 677,943 cruise arrivals between January and October 2023, reflecting a remarkable 30% increase compared to the same time frame in 2022, when 519,418 cruise guests visited.
Together with tourists arriving by air, which numbered 535,893, the Eastern Caribbean destination recorded about 1.2 million visitors in total, according to the island nation’s Ministry of Tourism.
The air arrivals are notable because they represent a 4.8% hike over 2022, and a very encouraging 18% spike versus the same time frame in pre-pandemic 2019, when 450,443 air arrivals were recorded.
“We are very pleased to see the increased number of visitors to the Turks and Caicos Islands by air and cruise for 2023. The Turks and Caicos Islands is renowned for its pristine turquoise waters and white sand beaches, world-class resorts and villas, culinary diversity, cultural experiences and natural beauty,” Josephine Connolly, Turks and Caicos Minister of Tourism said.
“As a multi-island destination, we are also diversifying the product experience and encouraging our visitors to experience the culture, heritage and activities for day tours and/or overnight stay beyond Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos,” added Connolly.
Data shows that the US is the island nation’s top source market, delivering 434,343 visitors between January and October 2023. Canada sent the second-highest number, 35,606, followed by the UK, with 8,541 visitors.
The robust cruise arrivals numbers Turks and Caicos is experiencing is due in large part to the steadfast presence of Carnival Cruise Line, which created and operates the Grand Turk Cruise Center. The cruise line initially invested $50 million to build and open the center in 2006, and in 2021 announced it would spend another $25 million on upgrades to the facility.
The cruise center is a 13-acre complex located on the southern end of Grand Turk, and features shops and restaurants, and the Caribbean’s largest Margaritaville — the famous Jimmy Buffet dining and entertainment venue.
The port can accommodate up to three ships at a time. With Carnival Cruise Line’s exclusive agreement to operate the cruise center, cruise guests will often see multiple ships from the line’s fleet visiting the port.
Carnival Cruise Line a Huge Presence on the Island
In the next few weeks, Carnival Freedom, Carnival Magic, Carnival Vista, and Mardi Gras are all slated to call. Other ships with a regular presence at the port include Holland America Line’s Nieuw Statendam, Nieuw Amsterdam, and Rotterdam, and Princess Cruises’ Sky Princess. Both Holland America and Princess Cruises are sister lines to Carnival Cruise Line.
Carnival Cruise Line’s Mardi Gras, which at full capacity can accommodate 6,500 guests, includes Turks and Caicos on its 7-day Eastern Caribbean winter series in 2023-24 from Port Canaveral, Florida. The ship calls at Nassau, Bahamas; Amber Cove, Dominican Republic; and Grand Turk.
Shore excursions offered on the sailings include Snorkeling and Stingray Adventure, Island Vibes Bus Tour and Beach Getaway, Island Exploration by Hummer, and ATV Off-road Adventure, among others.
Turks and Caicos in 2021 appeared to be in talks with Royal Caribbean regarding future ship calls. Washington Misick, the island nation’s premier, had indicated that his government was in negotiations with Royal Caribbean.
Industry watchers were doubtful such an agreement could be reached, given the island nation’s longterm partnership with Carnival Cruise Line and its operation of the cruise terminal. Currently, no Royal Caribbean ships offer port calls to Turks and Caicos.