The Suite Life of a NAVIGATOR – Grand Cayman

The alarm went of with the effect of a brick through a window, shattering my sleep. To be honest the sleep wasn’t all that great due to the really stiff mattress. The alarm was blasting for a reason though. We had a busy day planned in Grand Cayman.

Today we’d try having room service deliver our breakfast. Being in a suite, you can order the complete dining room menu, during dining room hours. At it turns out, there is a little gray-area there because room service told us they don’t do the full service breakfast until 30 mins after the dining room opened. We’d planned on having breakfast with time to spare before getting off the ship. We could eat on the large table on our balcony. Instead, we didn’t really enjoy it because they forgot one item and we ended up having to rush. Whomp Whomp. Not impressed, we could have just gone to Windjammer, circled for seats, and still have had enough time to not rush off.

After breakfast, we met with Amit who escorted us to the tender station. This was BY FAR the best part of being a VIP. Being able to cut tender lines.

I was honestly very surprised we made port that morning. There was a fair bit of wind and some chop to the water. The weather wasn’t as perfect as the previous two times I had been there. Something about being in a larger ship helped though I think. Out of 5 ships, 3 made port. Navigator of the Seas, Celebrity Reflection, and Carnival Triumph (though in another part of the island). Both Zenith and Vision of the Seas had to skip due to the wind. I think it was also good that we were there earlier. That said, the tender boat to shore wasn’t rocking as bad as I thought it would. Perhaps the side of the ship we were loading on was sheltered more.

The reason for all the rushing and waking up to the alarm? Simple. We had a morning excursion booked through Stingray City, that would take us into the early afternoon. Those of who are are like “What is this city with stingrays?” I’ll explain. It is essentially a tour company that will take you to one of Grand Cayman’s more popular attractions. A shallow watered area that is known to have a higher population of stingrays. There guides will gather them around with food. They’ll lift them up so you can hold them, or lift them out of the water behind you for awkward, but funny photos. Also in our tour, we were going to the town of Hell. Yes, there is a place named Hell in Grand Cayman. After Hell, we’d then go to the Grand Cayman Turtle Farm, THE place you go when you’re a tourist on the island. After all this we’d have a nice lunch somewhere and then possibly see some of the shops before heading back onto the ship.

When we arrived on land from the tender, we were greeted by Stingray City staff… with bad news. Turned out that because there was some wind and chop to the water, they were not running the stingray portion of the tour. Bummer!!! They said they could offer to place us with another company if we REALLY wanted to do the stingray portion. Thinking of mom though, I knew that it would be too difficult for her to deal with rocky water and wind to see some stingrays. We declined and considered our options.

Being a little disappointed that we got off the ship so early to have our tour cancelled, we decided to make lemonade from lemons. I had originally planned to take mom to the Turtle Farm so we decided we’d grab a cab and see about doing that at the very least.

After a short bit of confusion on my part about where to go, we were able to hail a cab. Three locals with a Toyota Hiace picked us up. We waited a few minutes as they wanted to find a couple additional fares, then set off for the northern part of Grand Cayman.

The Grand Cayman Turtle Farm is located in West Bay. It’s about a 15-20 minute taxi ride from the pier. When we first arrived, we dropped off the additional fares at the Dolphin Encounter, which is across the street. The taxi then dropped us off at the Turtle Farm. Inside the main lobby area, there are 2-3 people working the welcome/tours desk. Our taxi staff told us to drop their names for a discount. Using their names that I can’t remember, we did get a discount, that I also can’t remember. I believe our cost was $15 per person. (I suppose its a side effect of beer? Right? Probably). We booked the basic passes that would allow us access to all the turtle areas and some other small paddocks. The ultimate passes get you access to the sharks, rays (pool), and tropical birds. You also get access to a pool area in which to swim (with humans, not sea creatures-in most cases).

Once we got checked in and given our wrist bands we went through the doors onto the property. The first thing in front of you is the very large turtle beach and pool. There were many, many, turtles swimming around. Often you’d hear them come up for breath before they took off swimming again. And when they do swim, they’re faster than you’d think. We walked from one side to another watching them just swim around. A few turtles were being a little “amorous” at one end of the beach area. Walking around the property more, there were smaller pools with injured, juvenile, or purposefully separated turtles. There was also a small caged off grotto with a very large alligator.

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After walking past the smaller pools, at the backside of the turtle beach area was the main reason we came. The juvenile turtle pools where you could touch and pick-up the attractions. Guards were in place to make sure that you washed your hands before and after handling them. They were also in place to make sure that you handled them correctly and in the words of the gift shop staff, “make sure you didn’t try to kidnap them like some past guests.”

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Since we were there independently without a group tour, we were able to see and handle the turtles at our leisure. We picked up different ones to look at and take pictures. There was no time limit for the amount of time we could hang-out. There were plenty of young turtles to see in these pools. None of them really seemed to enjoy being held, but some handled it better than others. Since they were young their shells had fresh and really cool patterns to them. Mom, who loves sea turtles, was elated. My main goal of the trip. MET.

After enjoying the company of the young sea turtles for a while, we washed our hands and walked around the property a little more. There were so many chickens and roosters. Many of the chickens in fact had chicks following them around. Most of the time we were walking around the roosters were vocal about our presence but would hustle away at the slightest movement towards them.

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Back around the other side of the main turtle area, there was a stand were you could buy feed for the turtles. We sat down on a bench for little while watching others throw food into the pool. The turtles would only eat when they choose though. It’s not like fish that swarm something you throw into a lake/pond/creek. A lone iguana and a few chickens were taking advantage of any feed that might have found itself not in the actual pool.

Brian and Kristin continued to sit on the bench and people/turtle watch as Mom and I headed into the gift shop. I like to purchase t-shirts or magnets from places like this. She being into turtles could buy anything really. After making our said purchases we met back up with Brian and Kristin, then crossed the street to see what was going on at the Dolphin Encounter.

The Dolphin Encounter was a pretty nicely set up area. A nice lobby greeted you with gear and numerous TVs were you could view/purchase photos from your visit. You could walk beyond the 2nd set of doors like us and watch what transpired as well. Unfortunately, there wasn’t really much to see as we were probably there between shows. However on the far side of the property some guests were getting the full treatment, where the dolphins push you through the water. It was a nice place, but sort of boring at the moment. I felt a little antsy and could tell just hanging out there wasn’t up Brian and Kristin’s alley either. We decided to move along.

Leaving Dolphin Encounter, I thought I’d flag down a taxi to take us to a beach, where we could relax, and get our feet truly on the sand. By that time, some of the wind and rough water had calmed some. I decided that between the four of us we’d be best off going to Tiki Beach. I had been there 3 years prior and thought it offered a good mix for younger and older. There was also Calico Jacks, but it was a little too much going on for Mom.

When we arrived at Tiki Beach, it was just as I had remembered. A nice resort area with a good amount of beach front area. There was also a nice, but not too quiet palapa covered bar in the center of the property. When entering though, I was surprised to find that it was $30 per person for entry. Then again, everything in Grand Cayman is a little more expensive. At least we were given tickets for one drink, one lounger, and uhhh something else or maybe not, per person, included with admission. I knew it was a little more than the others had in mind for a beach, but rather than pack up and find someplace else, I just picked up the expense so we could just chill.

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We all set off for some loungers in or near shade on the right side of the beach area. This was nicer since the food was closer and it was more calm for Mom. Brian and Kristin sort-of grabbed a couple extra loungers so they could spend some time in the sun as well. Occasionally we’d get in and out of the water, though it was a little more cool than usual thanks to the winds that morning and day-long mostly cloudy skies. I had my Tribord snorkel mask with me as I had intended to use it to watch the stingrays. This being the first time using it, I wasn’t totally sure what to expect when in the water. I found it very comfortable though. Despite the grizzle on my cheeks and chin, there was no leaking. I had read that some with facial hair had experienced some water leaking in do to the hair affecting its ability to seal. With it on, I could see several fish, including some sergeant majors.

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Back out of the water, I took a seat on my lounger. A waitress walked the beach, asking if we’d like anything to eat and drink several times, but we’d initially declined. Now that it was into lunch time and we were hungry, we decided to grub while there. I remembered the food being pretty decent at Tiki Beach from the time before. This time was no different. I ordered their pulled-pork panini which was excellent! Others had ordered burgers or fritters which they also enjoyed. We chilled there sea side for a good while. There were people there next to us from the Carnival ship and we’d occasionally talk with them, comparing our trips.

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Delicious!

 

While we did have a good time there with the sun intermittently making appearances, there was one disappointment. Drinks. Perhaps I was mistaken about our drink cards we received when entering, but my brother and I wound up with non-alcoholic punch. Also, knowing me, I always prefer to have local beer from a bottle when at ports. This trip was no different, except that Tiki Beach only served the local beer, Caybrew, from taps in plastic cups. I had been to Grand Cayman now 3 times and I was going to be damned if I didn’t get my bottle caps this time around. I had not the 2 times previously.

After sitting down for a little longer, I set off up the beach to see if I could find myself some bottled Caybrew. Little did I know, I was in for a walk! Surely Calico Jack’s would have it. Well, they had it, but only in cans. Shoot! Looking up the beach, the next closest beach bar was some distance. I set off for it anyways. I would have my beer and drink it too. Besides I was on the beach in Grand Cayman. A good walk up a tropical beach was always great in my mind.

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I wound up walking a further than I thought I would. I passed many hotel and condo properties along the beach with bars, but all displaying “no trespassing” signs. A few even had guards sitting in chairs on the beach to keep people out. They wore uniforms but in more relaxed states, they seemed to have an easy job. Walking even further, I found that some of the places that appeared to be beach bars were, but were for hotel guests. Though I was enjoying the scenery, I was beginning to feel like I had already walked 6.9 miles of Seven Mile Beach. I figured, I’d head back but instead of walking along the beach, I’d walk along the main road with all the hotels. There were several shopping centers we had passed. It turned out to be a good decision as not even one block away, I found a beverage shop. Inside was a moderate selection of wine, beer, and spirits. In the very back though was what I had come for. Caybrew. Six packs and single bottles for sale. Finally! I thought about bringing back a 6-pack, but knowing how resort staff are about bringing drinks on property. I played it safe and just purchased two bottles.

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On the way back, I decided to head back out along the beach again. When I purchased the beer though, I forgot to think of one important thing. A bottle opener. Dammit! You’d think with all the bottles I’ve opened I’d be able to pop them open with my phone or wallet or even teeth at this point. That couldn’t be any further from the truth. In order to get the first bottle open, I popped the cap off with a concrete post. Caybrew was pretty good, but still not as good as Banks from Barbados. I walked the beach with my beers and nobody cared, particularly me. When it came time to open the second one, I was able to use a lone lounger.

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Finally making it back to Tiki Beach, It occurred to me that my beer search had taken well over an hour. The others were only interested in staying at the beach for a short while longer before heading back. When we were ready to go a very cool bus driver offered to take us after he unloaded all his passengers at Tiki Beach. He had to return to port and figured that even if it was just 4 of us, he would at least make a little money.

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Back in port, the others opted to head back to the ship. They were pretty much done for the day. I had some friends who fell in love with Grand Cayman though and felt they could use a little swag from the island. I walked around the souvenir shops a little to see what I could find for them before I headed back to the tender pier as well. It was a pretty good day in Grand Cayman. In the tender line, I met a pretty cool couple from Bel Air, Maryland and we talked a short while before stepping onto the tender and then back onto the ship.

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In the suite, everyone was getting cleaned up. I headed out onto the balcony to watch as we prepared to leave. Sort-of behind us or next to us was Celebrity Reflection. As we began to depart, we turned 180 degrees, leaving them behind, now on our way to Jamaica.

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Dinner this night had a more relaxed dress code thankfully. We had our usual pre-dinner drinks in the Concierge Club as well. I don’t remember specifically what we had for dinner this evening, but do remember it being one of the better menus. We each had desserts too.  Tonight there was 70’s trivia at the Schooner Bar. We’d give it a shot again and see what we could come up with. The hostess, Simone, while energetic was just not good at trivia in any way, shape, or form. We wound up being runners up, but unfortunately there were no more lanyards for us.

After dinner and trivia, I walked the ship some more. I went over to Sabor to see about making a reservation as I had heard nothing but good things about them. After that I met up with Brian and Kristin at Cafe Promenade, before I walked some more and eventually found my way back to the suite. Mom had already decided to make it a night and I was tired from being up early. The next day would be another busy one in Jamaica, so it was good to get some shut-eye.

One thought on “The Suite Life of a NAVIGATOR – Grand Cayman

  1. Hi Sean,

    My wife and I were also stymied in our plans for Grand Cayman. Though I would have gone for Stingray City, my wife is freaked out by them, so that was out. Instead, we had purchased a parasailing excursion, but were notified the day before, by a message on our TV, that it was being cancelled because of weather conditions. So we ended up just walking around in town for a couple of hours, while still looking forward to our zipline fun in Labadee (and you know how that was going to play out).
    I didn’t know, and am really surprised to learn, that two other ships cancelled stops in Grand Cayman that day because of the wind and chop. We had never had a port call that required a ride on a tender before, and really, it wasn’t that rough going back and forth to shore. If our ship could park out there, and we could make the transfer by tender, I don’t know why a couple of slightly-smaller ships couldn’t do the same. That said, we are going to avoid tender ports on any future cruises. We both thought it was a real pain, compared to walking on and off at a dock.
    Finally, I guess it proves I’m old and cheap when I am dumbfounded to read of an admission fee of $30 PP to a beach! Nice of you to cover it for your crew.

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