Our trip to Grand Cayman, 2003

This was out first trip to Grand Cayman. We selected Grand Cayman partly because we had not been there and partly because I could use both Delta Frequent Flyer miles to get us there and back plus get a couple of free nights at the Holiday Inn using Priority Club points. Our main objective was simply to defrost a bit in the middle of a cold Atlanta winter.

The Delta flights were non-stop between Atlanta and Georgetown, Grand Cayman and both flights were on time or early. (Actually, the return trip did something very unusual... it actually left 15 minutes BEFORE the scheduled departure time!) The flights were as comfortable as to be expected in today's coach seats.

The Grand Cayman Airport
The Grand Cayman Airport

Holiday Inn on 7 Mile Beach
Holiday Inn

The Holiday Inn is pretty new, just opening in November of 2001. Apparently there had been another, smaller HI closer to Georgetown, but it was sold and torn down to make room for a big new Ritz-Carlton resort/condominium that was under construction. The HI was across the road from the actual beach, but they had a bar, snack bar, and beach facilities on the beach, so it worked very well. Rooms were fine, although the AC unit only ran at one speed, noisy! It blew plenty of air, but was louder than I would have liked, especially in the middle of the night. Since the HI charged $2.00 for the coffee packets to go in the coffee maker in the room, we picked up some coffee packets, muffins and rolls at a food store and had that for breakfast most mornings.

The weather was apparently a bit unusual while we were there... The temperatures ran from mid 60s to perhaps the high 70s, probably reaching 80 one or two days. The wind was out of the North to North-East at 15-25 mph, except for one day it dropped to perhaps 10-15 mph. A couple of days were mostly cloudy, and a couple of days were mostly sunny. We got no rain while there (only some very light mist), but the Saturday before we arrived, they got over 9 inches of rain in one day. Although the weather was certainly not ideal, we kept thinking about the single-digit temperatures we were missing in Atlanta, and were glad for the warmth we had. We had planned to get in some snorkeling and possibly some sailing and windsurfing, but were hampered due to the relatively poor weather while there. Of the four full days we were there, most of the snorkle tour operators only ran one day. After a couple of days of cancellations, we did manage to take one snorkle/sail tour to Stingray Bay. Despite one previous bad experience with a stingray, I did manage to get my hands on a couple of rays on the trip. This trip included one other snorkle location (just inside the reef, among some coral) and lunch. Overall the tour (run by Redsail Sports) was reasonable, but the lunch was mediocre and did not include anything to drink, pretty well forcing you to purchase a drink from the "cash bar". We found out later that all drinks, alcoholic or not, were the same price, so by the time the $2. per drink (Cayamian dollars) were changed to US dollars and they ran out of change, our two small cups of plain canned fruit punch cost $8.00 (US).

On the way to StingRay City
RedSail Sail boat

The other days were just too windy for many beach activities, other than walking. None of the beach sports operators were letting out any of the few sailboats they had. The day we drove over to East End and found the one place that windsurfing is apparently still offered, the wind was too strong for us to consider going out in a strange (to us) area.

The first night there, we walked toward town and found the Bella Carib restaurant. It turned out to be the typical Cayamian restaurant: Italian with an emphasis on seafood. All 'normal restaurant' meals turned out to be very good, although certainly not inexpensive.

On the first full day there, after the first try at the snorkel trip was cancelled, we took the bus (2.CI$) into Georgetown and wandered around a few hours. Since this was Friday, there were no cruise ships in port and it was nice and quiet. We checked out some of the stores and sampled Rum Cake and had a nice lunch at a Thai restaurant in town before heading back to the HI. That evening we walked to the Neptune restaurant, another Italian/seafood restaurant. They served a small, compilmentary, post dinner glass of "Grappa" that Susan decided she really liked...

A quiet day in Georgetown Area
Down Georgetown

Calypso Grill and empty plates
Calyapso Grill

I had reserved a rental car (Cisco-Avis) and we picked it on on the 2nd full day and covered much of the west end of the island: the Turtle farm, Hell, and the southern coast. We had a very nice lunch (moules, frites, and beer) at the Calypso Grill. That night we went to the "Cafe Mediterranean" another (you guessed it) Italian/Seafood restaurant.

The afternoon after we went on the snorkel trip we drove ovver to the middle of the island and went to the Queen Elizabeth Botanic Garden. With the (relatively) cool weather and breeze, the gardens were very pleasent and interesting. That evening we ended up at Rackem's Bar/Grill on the water in Georgetown. Although we got there after the nightly Tarpon feeding, there must have still been about 50 of the large game fish milling around under the lights.

At Queen Elizabeth Botanical garden
Botaniucal garden

On our last full day, we drove around the island, going along the south. east, and north coasts, stopping at the various sights along way: blow holes, wreck of the 10 sails park, etc. It was at the northeast corner, at Moritts resort that we found the windsurfing location. We had lunch at Rum Point, a recreation area on the north side of the island, before returning to 7 mile beach. That evening the HI had a "Caribbean Buffet" on the beach. This was apparently the first time they had tried this and the turnout was very light and the food reasonable, but prepared too far in advance to really be called "good". At $20.(CI$) per person, it was probably the least expensive dinner we had, and certainly the most filling.

Rum Point Recreation Area
Run Point
LightHouse Restaurant
Lighthouse Restaurant

During our stay, we could look out our HI room window and see the cruise ships in the Georgetown harbor. There were only one or two until Monday, when we counted 7 ships. That Monday was also a national holiday (Hero's Day) so we knew that was a good day to stay away from the downtown and harbor area. On our last morning, it was very windy and cloudy, so after a long beach walk, we checked out of the HI and drove to the harbor area to see what it was like with the 6 cruise ships there. It was interesting watching all the people and the activities. The ships have to anchor about a half-mile offshore and ferry the people ashore via tenders. We just looked around and watched all the activity as tenders jockyed for dock space and tour operators tried to drum up business. After watching this for a while we got in the car and headed to the airport. Airport check-in and customs was quick and while we waited for flight time we visited the duty-free shops and sampled the run-cake some more.
Looking down 7-Mile beach at ships in port
Ships in port

Unloading the Cruise ships in Georgetown
Ship Tenders in action

Some general observations:

The most common warning we had received about Grand Cayman is that it is expensive and we found that to be true. We are not extravagent eaters at all, but probably averaged over $100 (US$) per day for meals. We stopped in at the Westin resort one evening and had a glass of wine while listening to a very good piano player: $12 (CI$) per glass for the house wine! Although it was certainly warmer than at home, the weather was inconsistant and (relatively) windy/cool such that you could not really plan on doing anything that would require good weather. While Grand Cayman was very nice, and we enjoyed the warmth, we probably will not be going back soon. It seems to appeal to SCUBA divers and people who mainly want to sit on the beach or shop the many stores.... We don't do either. The only apparent windsurfing and sailing location was on a part of the island where there appeared to be little else to do at all.

Some of the beautiful GC water
beautiful water off Rum Point

Contact me via mike@hammocktree.us