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4 DAYS ON GRAND CAYMAN - Part 5 - Final

Travel & news discussion about the Cayman Islands

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4 DAYS ON GRAND CAYMAN - Part 5 - Final

Postby California Girl » Mon Jan 21, 2008 4:58 pm

Monday

McCurley's was supposed to pick us up to take us to the airport on Monday at 11:00. Since we were all packed, we didn't have to worry about getting up too early. I was up at 8:00 and went out to sit by the lagoon with Sandy and Susan and have a cup of coffee. The lady who lives next door came by with a fresh bouquet of Croton and Bougainvillea and we talked for about 15 minutes. She's a writer from Newfoundland, looks to be in her early 40's and has lived there for 18 years. She was getting ready to teach a yoga class at 10:00, but invited us in to see some of her local sketches. She's no Rembrandt, but her work is free-spirited, primitive and a little childlike, and I liked it for that. I had a Caymanian $25 dollar bill burning a hole in my wallet, so I bought one of her pen & ink watercolors. A nice tropical fish scene. I believe my friends are still wondering why I bought it. You either get it or you don't, I suppose.

McCurley's was on time to pick us up. They checked out the rental car, it seemed to pass inspection, and off we went to the airport. Check-in, immigration and security were a snap. The small, shop-lined departure area was jammed with people and we had 2 hrs. to wait. We all took turns watching our carry-on stuff while the others strolled through the shops. Cuban cigars, jewelry, rum cakes, booze, trinkets made in China, a bar & snack shop kept us busy. I bought a pendant. It's an eagle ray carved out of black coral with inlaid gold spots, gold tail and fittings and I was assured it's made in the Cayman Islands. I just couldn't resist it! I nearly died when I saw BBD rum at the duty free shop priced at 2 for $24.00 US!!! (more on buying liquor later) Sandy's bag got chosen at random for a security check... how exciting! Luckily they didn't manage to find all the Cuban cigars and cocaine us old ladies were smuggling back - LOL! :roll: From what we heard down there, smugglers are now recruiting "gray haired grandmas" to smuggle in drugs. Hmmmm... that's some retirement program, and I am growing my gray hair out! :lol:

If we didn't make it to Hell on Grand Cayman, we truly found it at the Miami airport! Because we were on an international flight, we had to claim our luggage and check it through again. Once claimed, we dragged everything through customs & immigration and were herded through a door to an area of complete chaos! The end of the room was roped off and it was mayhem on this side of the ropes. There were no lines and passengers were pressing toward the rope like it was an arena style rock concert, trying to get the airport employees on the other side to take their baggage to send it through to the various connecting flights. The employees were arguing with each other and with the passengers. After getting his ass chewed by an irate passenger, one airport guy actually said, "If this is the way it's going to be, I'm going home!" After that fiasco, we stood in a line that seemed a mile long to go through security and when we finally got to our departure gate, we found out our plane was going to be delayed an hour and 15 minutes! I was getting cranky now. At LAX everyone's bags showed up except mine. I watched the belt go round and round until the little door at the top of the ramp slammed closed. Crap! It's nearly 2:00 a.m., my luggage is lost and we have a private car waiting for us in a "you can't hang out here zone"! Off I go to the baggage claim office while Sandy's comparing luggage claim checks to see which number is the missing one. I wait in line, file my report and we all pile into the van. I cannot tell you how completely pissed off I was. 20 hours awake, 2:00 in the morning, and my luggage is probably somewhere in Lithuania. I zombied-out at home the next day without my toothbrush and deodorant while I waited for American Airlines to deliver my bag, which, by some divine miracle, they had found. I have to give it to American on this one, they did a good job and my bag finally showed up at my door at 7:30 p.m.


RANDOM OBSERVATIONS:

Crime: BA (the rental car lady) told us there is no crime on the island. No murders, rapes or robberies, only a domestic disturbance now and then. 30 people were killed on the island last year and they were all car accidents. After seeing the way they drive, that doesn't surprise me a bit! The day we were leaving and met Donna next door, she told us that there were all kinds of rapes and break-ins and threats by intruders with machetes, and she had been stalked twice! And we had walked to Rum Point in the dark! Eeek!

Driving: Driving is on the left, like it is on STJ. Cars have either right or left hand steering wheels and either KM or MPH speedometers. Our car was left hand drive with a KM speedometer. The speed limit signs are in MPH, so there was a P-Touch label stuck to the speedometer with conversions for the speeds. Every time the speed limit would change I had to do the conversion. People tailgate you like crazy! One minute you'll look in your rear view mirror and there's not a car in sight, then 2 seconds later there's someone riding your bumper. I always pulled over and let them pass if I could. Oh, and they pass on curves... it got real exciting a couple of times in a horror kind of way. They also like to play what I like to call "pull out from a side street chicken." Got brakes?

The Houses: The average homes were nice, clean West Indian style cottages. BA told us that everyone paints the exterior of their house every Christmas. In George Town and Bodden Town this seemed to be more evident than on the East End. Houses of every color and pretty trims. Lots of pinks and turquoises and yellows and oranges. I just love them! Out near Rum Point there is mansion after mansion. They all look like the Library of Congress. HUGE and formal and right on the ocean! The weird thing is that at least 50% of these houses seem to be for sale. One person told us it's because they are just places for people to hide their money and get a nice tax write-off. Seems logical in the Cayman Islands, no?

This was a vacation rental next door to our condo, isn't it pretty?! :D
Image

Image


Christmas Decorations: A lot of people still have up their full-on Christmas decorations. I asked if this was a tradition of some kind and was told, "No, they are just lazy."

Hurricane Ivan: There's still a lot of evidence of Ivan. We kept finding roof shingles in the water when we were snorkeling at Rum Point and there were also some on the beach at East End. Some houses are nothing more than a foundation while others are unpainted with boarded up windows looking very vacant. However, things are clean and it looks like progress is definitely being made in the restoration department.

Watch what you buy: Many, many of the things for sale in the souvenir shops are imported from elsewhere. If you are looking for a Caymanian souvenir, be sure to ask where it's made. I recommend the upstairs souvenir shop down the street from Hammerheads that sells the homemade ice cream, hot sauces and lots of Cayman-made items. The people who run it are super nice and they sell quality items at fair prices. (I just wish I could remember the name of their shop!)

Costs: It's FREAKIN' EXPENSIVE! I've never been anyplace where $20 bills flew out of my hands so fast. It makes St. John seem like Wal-Mart!

Buying Booze: If you are flying in (rather than visiting on a cruise ship), know this about taking liquor home: Booze is much cheaper at the airport duty free shop after you've gone through security than it is anywhere on the island. You can carry it on the plane with you, BUT... you have to put it into your checked luggage when you hit Miami. By now, it's too late to put it in your checked luggage at Grand Cayman, because you just checked it. So it becomes a big fat hassle if you ask me. And the way my suitcase was packed there was no way I could claim my luggage in Miami, open it up, pack two bottles of booze in it, and check it through to L.A. Particularly now knowing what a joke Miami is! If you are flying INTO Grand Cayman, buy a liter of your favorite booze at the duty free shop in Miami airport. I bought a 750ML bottle of Cruzan at my local BevMo for $10.00, and packed it in my checked luggage, and then I found a full liter at the duty free shop for $9.00 that I could have carried on the plane. Liquor is very expensive on the island and everyone is allowed to bring in one liter. Susan, Sandy & I each brought in one bottle and we used only 2 of them in 4 days making Painkillers :D

The Island: Most of Grand Cayman is swampland. Although we really weren't bothered by bugs, I sure wouldn't want to be there in the summer! Most of the homes and development are built on the fringes of the island, which is flat, flat, flat with mostly scrubby plants. George Town is mostly high rises and really bad traffic. I can't comment on 7 Mile Beach other than to say it didn't look like a place I'd want to spend any time. It's just too "resorty" for me, but you might like the big hotel experience. We didn't make it to Hell, so no comments on that either. Rum Point, East End, the Botanical Gardens and the water are to die for. The rest of the island (not counting the cute houses) is, in my opinion, butt ugly. There's nothing to do if you don't dive. The Turtle Farm really is a farm. I was told they raise 60% of them for food and 40% are released into the sea. I was also told they are kept in pools so crowded that the turtles are climbing all over each other. If you have been there and I'm wrong, then feel free to comment. I'm one of those people who sends money to The Sea Turtle Foundation and I just couldn't go to a turtle farm. Besides, they charge $18 to get in, and if you want to do the "amusement park" part of it, it's $55. Amusement park??

Computer Access: Don't go to Grand Cayman expecting anything like a cyber-cafe. There are several hot spots if you bring your laptop, but there's no place to rent computer time to check your e-mail or check the forum. Want to start a business on Grand Cayman? Open a cyber-cafe that serves breakfast. In fact, open 3 or 4 across the island and you'll get rich. There are probably places at Seven Mile Beach, but I don't know about that.

Stingray City: The experience of a lifetime with wild Southern Stingrays. If I ever go back to Grand Cayman I would only go if someone said to me, "Let's go down to Grand Cayman for a few days and stay at Rum Point and go to Stingray City every day and come home again." That would be fine. I can't say enough about it... it's magic!

The opinions I've expressed in this trip report are those of a Grand Cayman newbie on my first trip to the island. There are a lot of places I didn't see and lots of history and stories I didn't hear. But this is my impression of Grand Cayman. I have been extremely fortunate to go to the Cayman Islands for next to nothing and I'm truly grateful for it, but Grand Cayman just didn't do it for me. Or maybe I am just spoiled by St. John and no place else will ever measure up. Oh well, there are worse things, I suppose! LOL! Thanks for listening!
California Girl
 
Posts: 9
Joined: Mon Jan 21, 2008 12:43 pm
Location: So. California

Postby testudo » Thu Oct 23, 2008 10:36 am

California Girl,

Great trip report! I think you presented a fair and balanced assessment of your impressions of Grand Cayman. Like you, our favorite Caribbean island is St. John. Nothing else quite measures up. However, we did fall in love with Grand Cayman though. As you mention, the water is fantastically blue and the snorkeling is the best I've ever experienced. We ended up buying a condo at the Retreat on Rum Point (once I win the lottery STJ will be the next location for a vacation home). The beach itself and restaurants along the SMB area are great, but the Cayman Kai area was much more reminiscent of the laid back Caribbean we love. As our perfect vacation consists of Beach, Drink, Snorkel, Beach, Eat, Drink, Sleep we found a piece of paradise.

Thanks again for sharing your experience.


Testudo
testudo
 
Posts: 3
Joined: Thu Oct 23, 2008 9:00 am
Location: New Jersey

Postby testudo » Fri May 14, 2010 9:44 pm

testudo wrote:California Girl,

Great trip report! I think you presented a fair and balanced assessment of your impressions of Grand Cayman. Like you, our favorite Caribbean island is St. John. Nothing else quite measures up. However, we did fall in love with Grand Cayman though. As you mention, the water is fantastically blue and the snorkeling is the best I've ever experienced. We ended up buying a condo at the Retreat on Rum Point (once I win the lottery STJ will be the next location for a vacation home). The beach itself and restaurants along the SMB area are great, but the Cayman Kai area was much more reminiscent of the laid back Caribbean we love. As our perfect vacation consists of Beach, Drink, Snorkel, Beach, Eat, Drink, Sleep we found a piece of paradise.

Thanks again for sharing your experience.


Testudo


For anyone interested, I have just started a snorkel blog called Testudo's Snorkel Spot. There are snorkel location reviews and guides for some of my favorite places on Grand Cayman, along with other off the beaten path sights.

http://snorkelblog.tumblr.com/
testudo
 
Posts: 3
Joined: Thu Oct 23, 2008 9:00 am
Location: New Jersey

Postby California Girl » Wed Jul 14, 2010 10:56 am

testudo - I never got an e-mail about your replies to this thread. I just checked the forum to get the url of my TR to share with someone. :)

Thanks for your kind words...uh...2 years ago!!! Ahhhh, to have a condo on GC... a dream! :D
California Girl
 
Posts: 9
Joined: Mon Jan 21, 2008 12:43 pm
Location: So. California


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