. . . Or: Neither Travel
Agents, nor Storms, nor Misfired Plans
Saturday - July 10, 1999
The day dawned sunny and bright with the promise of a wonderful vacation. Since our flight didn't leave until 12:30, we had time to leisurely get ready, call the resort and book a dive for the next day, and finish packing the last few remaining. items.
We should have had a clue that the day was going to take a downward spiral when Cayman Air wasn't set up outside to check bags, as they normally are. Inside, at the ticket window, we discovered that the flight had been changed to an earlier time AND OUR TRAVEL AGENT (Carlson Wagonlit in St Pete) NEVER NOTIFIED US. The short version is, 13 hours from the time we left our house (and several drinks later) we finally touched down in Grand Cayman, right on the heels of a tropical depression. An hour later, we arrived at Morritt's Tortuga Club on the East end, tired and peeved at the travel agent, but still smiling.
Morritt's Tortuga Club
(click on picture for full size)
Sunday - July 11, 1999
Oh that dive came early. It had been 18 months since our last dive, so we were on the 'baby divers' boat for a double shallow dive. It was great since, the three of us were the only passengers - we had the boat and 2-man crew all to ourselves. It's not often you can get a private dive at a resort! That familiar panic and hyperventilation set in as soon as I put the regulator in my mouth. I jumped in, swam away from the boat, then swam back to the boat fully intending to get back in and abort the dive. Will I EVER get over that feeling. Fortunately I hung on the side for a minute, consciously slowed my breathing, and got myself under control. Dan also experienced a bit of apprehension, manifesting itself in equipment misgivings and general edginess, but Danielle was totally comfortable and serene as usual. Finally we descended for a fabulous dive. We visited Isabelle's Reef and Babylon (near the Northern shore) that day, and even though visibility was lowered (about 30') due to the Tropical Depression, they were still incredible. No large animal sightings, but a myriad of colorful fish, a few barracuda, and all manner of corals, sponges, and fans.
Monday - July 12, 1999
Drove into Georgetown for some shopping and lunch Speaking of driving, we rented a Suzuki Maruti this trip. It reminds one of a safari vehicle, somewhere between a jeep and a truck. Not the smoothest ride in the world, but loads of fun. It is completely open except for a vinyl (removable) top, so we got a little wet in a couple of rains.
Stopped at Diver's Supply. (I don't know why, but I really LIKE that store). Then we looked for Hog Stye Bay Cafe, which we remembered as being good from our previous visit. It's changed it's name to Capt. Something-or-other (Brian's?), but the menu was the same. I really prefer the old name, it was much more distinctive. Anyway, I had the Mahi Mahi (be sure to ask for some delicious Jerk mayonnaise on the side - yummy!). Dan had the chicken pie and Danielle had the curried chicken. Both pronounced the food excellent. Prices were reasonable (especially for the island) at about $10CI per order. Don't look for cheap drinks though. As with most places, mixed drinks ran about $7-$8 CI each. We brought our own booze, drank at the hotel, and ordered iced tea in the restaurants. Dan did try a new beer there, whose name escapes him. He loved it, so I guess just look for something you haven't heard of.
We paid our usual visit to the Tortuga Rum Distillery Gift Shop. In addition to the T-shirts we bought, we got one of the Blue Mountain Coffee Rum Cakes to bring back with us. We'll save it for a day when we REALLY miss Grand Cayman and serve some up with a batch of Rum Punch to remind us.
We also paid our usual visit to Dr Carey, who has the lowest carved black coral prices on the island. No purchases this time, but its always great to spend a few minutes chatting with him.
Back at Morritt's, the weekly Mudslide Madness party got cut short due to rain. But we did get to hear Lammi play for a bit and see George, Danielle's friend from prior visits, do the 'Dollar Dance'.
Tuesday - July 13, 1999
With our 'baby dives' out of the way, they let us on the 'big peoples' boat for a wall dive. The first spot was an impromptu stop dubbed 'Dolphin Point' after several dolphins were spotted playing in the area. Unfortunately, they disappeared by the time we got our gear and got into the water. My panic attack was very short this time, probably due to the excitement of the dolphins. Any way, this dive and the following shallow dive at 'Black Rock' were, once again, incredible.
If you're wondering why I don't mention activities after the dives, it's because they're aren't any. We're always so wiped out, the rest of the day is a waste, which is part of the reason we don't dive every day. We usually spend it watching movies in the room, or maybe laying out on the beach, reading, or just napping.
Wednesday - July 14, 1999
Our 25th wedding anniversary. Drove the short distance into Boddentown (about 20 minutes) for lunch at The Edge. I had a juicy hamburger and marinated conch. Dan and Danielle had the Cayman style fried lobster. Prices are reasonable (for the island) and the food was very good. Sitting outside on the terrace, we watched the waves crashing against the iron shore.
Hit a couple of local craft shops and followed the signed to R. Terry's woodcarvings. This man does beautiful work and promised to make a piece that we liked in a different wood that we also liked for us the next day.
Our evening plans went through several incarnations. Before leaving, we had decided to take the dinner cruise offered on an authentic tall sailing ship. However, when we tried to make reservations, we found that it was down for maintenance this week. Our next plan was the dinner cruise on the pirate ship, the Jolly Roger. A bit cheesier, but still sounded like fun. We made reservations, but the trip was canceled due to inclement weather. (Note, it didn't rain all the time we were there in spite of the Tropical Depression, just a couple of times that were inconvenient). Ok fine. There was still one water cruise left, a semisubmerged submarine also offers a dinner cruise, but do you think we actually got on it? There night lights had burned out and they had to wait for new ones to come from Miami. I guess it just wasn't our destiny to be on the water that night.
We ended up going to an Italian restaurant on the waterfront in Georgetown, which came highly recommended from David, our resort representative. I must say it was fabulous. We ordered a bottle of wine that cost nearly as much as the dinner. I got Crespella Casanova, sliced and baked crepes filled with lobster and shrimp in a cream basil sauce. The star of the evening was Dan's choice, Pollo Principessa, chicken breast brushed with mustard, sautéed with fresh mushrooms, shallots, and cream flamed with cognac. Buonissimo!!! This is not a cheap place, dinner for two, with wine, appetizers, and a sinful dessert was about $165 US.
Thursday - July 15, 1999
Today was a sightseeing day. Visited the Pirate Caves in Boddentown. Yes they are cheesy, but still worth the $5. There is a 'tour' through the grounds with several native plants marked, a few animals including a parrot that says hello, scratch, and goodbye. 'Scratch' is accompanied by his tilting his head expectantly against the bars of the cage. Finally, you can climb the rocky steps down to a portion of the caves that lie under Boddentown. Ok, not real scary with the plastic dinosaurs, and fake bones lying about, but if you look past this you see a glimpse of what the pirates must have seen. Note, this is not a US regulated tourist site. There are no guides and the paths can be treacherous, as they are slippery and rocky. Keep small children close at hand.
We also stopped at Pedro's castle, but were too late for the full treatment. We wandered the grounds for a bit and took a look at the 'castle', which is the oldest stone building in the Cayman Islands. Known as the birthplace of democracy, it has many plaques describing what like was like in the early history of Grand Cayman. Sitting on a 30 foot bluff, the view is incredible.
Also near Boddentown is a roadside stand selling Jerk chicken and pork. We bought some, then returned to the hotel for a picnic outside our room, where we watched the Limbo and Fire-eater show at Morritts.
Friday - July 16, 1999
Our final dive of the week was in the southeastern waters. Capt. McKennedy's Cavern was a wall dive, where an 8' pregnant reef shark was known to frequent. I don't want to see a shark (I'm terrified of them) and almost didn't dive, but the lure of the water was too great. I sent out my anti-shark vibes and jumped into the water. Much to the dismay of the others in my group, we didn't see the shark (though two of the groups did). Truthfully, I don't remember much about this dive, because I spent most of my time keeping a lookout for the damned shark. The second dive, which we took guided, was at a placed called 'Fantasyland'. Although a guided tour wasn't a requirement here, we decided to take the guide. I'm so glad we did, since our guide took us through many, many tunnels and swim-throughs. The current was pretty rough, so I got smacked around a few times, but it was just too cool.
Later, determined NOT to spend the rest of the day in total vegetation, we forced ourselves to get out of the room. More water fun, snorkeling at the Queen's Monument. With the rough surf, and lowered visibility, not quite the incredible vision I remembered from the 95 trip, but still a beautiful place.
We ate dinner at Miss Vivine's, who serves home-cooked Camanian meals on her back porch. The menu changes daily and is easily the best value on the island. This night we selected the stewed beef for $6 CI. Also available were fried chicken, curry goat, fried fish, and hamburgers. The beef is shredded and spiced and came served with a baked sweet potato, carrot salad, potato salad, a slice of tomato, breadfruit, rice & beans, and plantains. It was delicious, filling, and a wonderful experience.
Saturday - July 17, 1999
Our last day on the island. We checked our of Morritt's, and drove to Seven Mile Beach to check in at the Treasure Island Resort. A lovely place which is quite reasonable (for the island) and less than many hotels that look like they should be less expensive. Anyway, spent the day shopping in Georgetown and snorkeling at the beach. The evening was spent relaxing in the pool, which has bridges, a waterfall, and a poolbar. Also watched the steel drum band, playing in the lobby. For our final meal on the island, a pizza from the Esso gas station and rum cake.
Sunday - July 18, 1999
It's over. The flight back was uneventful and both us and our luggage made it back safely.
Wishing you warm weather and tropical breezes.
Grand Cayman Pirate Fest Week - What a Party!
The three of us took this trip with George, a friend of Danielle's from work. We arrived on a beautiful day... breezy with temperature in the low nineties. Took a taxi to 'Just Jeeps' and the four of us piled in with a ton of luggage (you'd think we'd learn to pack lighter!). We have a timeshare at Morritt's Tortuga Club on the east end, and it seems like an endless trip. We finally arrived, quickly unpacked and headed to the beach for some snorkeling. The currents are pretty heavy and the wind has stirred up the bottom, so it's a pretty short snorkel. Oh well, need to get ready for Pirate Fest, the opening night party in Georgetown.
What a great party it was! Five stages set up throughout the city played music continuously till midnight. We drank lots of rum punch and sampled the new local beer, Stingray. They are brewing three kinds: light, wheat, and boch. The light is not very good (and unfortunately the only one served in most of the bars), but the wheat was pretty good and Dan liked the boch. We found a place called 'Tony's' serving absolutely the best jerk chicken and pork we've ever had (and we've sampled a lot of different places). Unfortunately, he doesn't have a restaurant, but only does the festivals. What a shame. Danielle had some great fried lobster, but by the time we got there, it was sold out. We all had a great time, but that long trip back to Morritt's went on forever.
The island practically shuts down on Sundays, so even during Pirate Week, there are no festivals or parties. We did some snorkeling at the resort, then drove into Georgetown hoping a grocery store was open. No such luck, but we did have lunch at Calico Jacks and tried their jerk burgers and jerk chicken sandwiches. Yummy! After that we just drove around the island, sightseeing a bit and shopping in the few places open.
Our first dive on the island! We went with the Tortuga Divers at the resort and did a 60' at a spot called Babylon and a 50' dive at one called Fish Tank. What an incredible experience! Along with fish of every conceivable color, we actually saw a sea turtle and a small spotted ray! Vince and Patrick, the crew of the Hawksbill were terrific. We were able to take the dives guided, which was great for newbies like us (just got certified before we left for vacation!. After some lunch and rest, we headed out to Northside for the party there. Got more jerk pork from 'Tony's' but searched in vain for the fried lobster. The band, Rukum TNT, was decent, but got started late and took really long breaks.
No trip to the Cayman's would be complete without visiting the stingrays, so we took the snorkel trip from Rum Point to the sandbar. I just love these velvety creatures and fed as many as I could. We spent the rest of the day at Rum Point, had a good lunch, did some snorkeling, and snoozed in the hammocks.
Wednesday was East End Heritage Day and we stopped by in the afternoon. We were treated to antique displays and lots of great food. Then into Georgetown for some shopping and back to the East End for their party that night.
This was another dive day. Unfortunately since he had a cold and bad sinuses, Dan had to sit this one out. Feeling confident after our dive on Monday, we did a 100-foot wall dive to a site on the North side called Omega Wall Drop-off. How incredible! We even swam through a small tunnel in the wall. Now we're real divers! The second site, Little Bluff Reef, was at 50-foot. This was our first unguided dive! I was doing ok until after about 20 minutes, when I thought we should be back near the boat, I started signaling to my partner "boat where???" It showed up a couple of minutes later and I was ok again. We picked up (and put back down) the biggest live conch shell I've ever seen.
Back at the resort, we did the 'Island Buffet' at David's (the restaurant at Morritt's). It was good, but I was a little disappointed. I was expecting more seafood (no conch or lobster at all). Then it was out to the patio to listen to Lammie and watch Ricardo the Fire eater (who does a really HOT limbo). Lammie, by the way, is THE entertainer in the east end. He performs at Morritt's several nights a week. Last trip, when we hit a little local bar, the Apollo 11, he was playing there. He also played at a private party that Danielle went to last trip. Anyway, he plays what I call reggae-lite and has a terrific voice.
Friday was the sightseeing day. We scrambled up and down the rocks at the blow holes, toured the turtle farm, and shopped on Seven Mile Beach. Lunch was at Hog Sty Bay Cafe. We also found out that this was the day that the turtle farm releases some of the turtles into the sea for replenishment. They brought them out in trucks and let the public carry them out into the water and let them go. It was quite a scramble to get a turtle, but Dan got one and gave it to me. What a guy!
Our last night on the island... we reluctantly moved from Morritt's, where our time was up, over to the Sleep Inn on Seven Mile Beach. We snorkeled at Cemetery Reef, where we had our own little school of fish that swam with us the entire time. After that, we snorkeled the wreck at the east end of the beach. The wreck was cool, but the ironshore areas were just as interesting. I found someone's wallet in the water. It was a local so I called him to pick it up. Seems it had been stolen the week before. I guess there IS crime on the island, though very little.
This was also the final night of Pirate Fest with a big closing party back in Georgetown. Every bit as good as the first night, the music rocked. We got more of Tony's jerk pork since it will be our last taste for a long time.
The time finally came to say goodbye. It was almost like leaving a lover. We have all fallen in love with the crystal clear waters, the beaches, the ambiance, and the wonderful friendly people. ...But we'll be back!
Until next time,
Click on the picture for a full sized image.
These are restaurants to which we've been and heartily recommend to our fellow travelers.
This is probably my favorite island dining experience. Have a Camanian meal on Miss Vivine's back porch. Her menu changes daily and is probably the best value on the island. The day we went, the choices were stewed beef, fried chicken, curry goat, fried fish, and a hamburger. We selected the stewed beef, which was shredded and spiced. Served with a baked sweet potato, carrot salad, potato salad, a slice of tomato, breadfruit, rice & beans, and plantains, there was plenty left over for the next day. It was delicious, filling, and a wonderful experience. The most expensive meal was $6 CI, which probably makes it about the best value on the island..
Located in Boddentown near the east end of the island, its not a quick jaunt if you're staying at Seven Mile Beach, but it's well worth the drive. She is located on the main road, ocean side. Look for the hand-lettered sign that says 'Ray & Vivines Residence'.
We had our 25th anniversary dinner here. The atmosphere is intimate and friendly. The waiters were warm and attentive. The food was superb. I ordered the Crespella Casanova, which is sliced and baked crepes filled with lobster and shrimp in a cream basil sauce. It was tasty and done to perfection. Dan's choice, Pollo Principessa, was even better. The chicken breast is brushed with mustard, sautéed with fresh mushrooms, shallots, and cream flamed with cognac. Buonissimo!!! My only complaint was that the lighting against the outside wall made it difficult to see the view of the sea outside. This is not a cheap place, dinner for two, with wine, appetizers, and a sinful dessert was about $165 US.
Located on the water in George Town, in the Fort Building. Lunch is served Mon-Sat 11:30am to 2:15pm. Dinner is served daily from 6:00pm to 10:00 pm.
Restaurants recommended by others, which we intend to visit next trip.
More Soon Come!
Because we stay at Morritt's, we always
dive with the Tortuga divers located there, but below are links to several
other dive organizations.
more soon come!