Author Topic: CS91's Surprise Trip to the Cayman Islands  (Read 11546 times)

Offline CS91

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CS91's Surprise Trip to the Cayman Islands
« on: January 11, 2016, 03:57:38 PM »
Introduction

Iíve never written a trip report before, so feel free to provide me with some feedback. I was originally planning on making my debut with a trip report after my MLE trip in two months, but I realized that there isnít much here on the Cayman Islands so thought that this might be helpful to some.

Back in August, DW and I were thinking of what to do during my last winter break, and we thought that Miami would be the easiest option because we were expecting and our soon to be arriving baby would be four months old by the time my vacation came around. I grew up going to Miami several times a year (grandparents have a place on the beach so itís a quick, cheap trip) so Iím very familiar with the city and really enjoy going there. I went ahead and booked us flights direct from PHL using Avios (7,500 per person OW from PHL). Once we were booked, I didnít give the trip much thought until about two weeks ago when JJ and I were texting about meeting up in Miami for dinner one night. JJ being JJ was like ďyouíre staying in Miami for eight days? Thatís long. Why donít you split your trip up and take a quick trip to the Caribbean?Ē So I thought about it for a bit, and after looking at flight distance and which islands have SPG properties (Iím a bit limited on points these days because of some other trips that Iím booking), I settled on the Cayman Islands. I also decided that Iíd turn it into a surprise for my wife.

I got on the phone with BA (awful experience as usual) and booked us flights (4,500 Avios per person OW, 450 Avios for my daughter OW, and $192.90 taxes in total). Then I called SPG and booked us at the Westin Grand Cayman for two nights at 16,000 SPG points per night.

Our overall itinerary was land in Miami on Monday afternoon, fly to the Caymans on Wednesday morning, fly back to Miami on Friday morning and then leave Miami on Tuesday morning.

Travelling to the Grand Caymans

On Tuesday afternoon, DW and I were walking on the boardwalk in Miami and I turned to her and told her ďbe ready to leave the apartment tomorrow morning at 7am because weíre going somewhere.Ē At first she didnít believe me, but once she realized that I was serious, she proceeded to beg me to tell her where to. She didnít know if we were driving somewhere, flying somewhere or going on a cruise. She guessed every Caribbean island possible, but I stood my ground and didnít tell her where we were headed.

That night, we picked up some food from Kosher Price Market on 41st Street, packed our stuff up and went to sleep. The next morning, we got into the car and I drove towards the airport. Eventually, DW picked up on where we were driving and realized that we were flying somewhere. After returning my rental car, we headed over to the terminal to check in. As soon as we got to the check in counter, I asked the agent not to say our destination out loud because it was a surprise for my wife. (It was at this point that I was made aware of the fact that the Grand Caymans was in that annoying in-between spot where my AA cc didnít give me free bags, and that I didnít get one free bag even though itís officially an international flight. Not the end of the world though.) I did the same thing at security and I made sure to hold the boarding passes so that she couldnít see our destination. I had a fleeting thought to put a blindfold on DW and make her listen to music with my Beats so that she didnít hear where we were going when we were on the plane, but thought that doing that would be a little mean. So she found out when we eventually got to the gate and she was super excited!

The flight was an hour long and uneventful, and when we landed, the flight attendant announced that weíd be disembarking the plane on aircraft steps (or whatever the correct word for these are). I got excited about this because thereís something about landing on an island and being in a small airport. It kind of sets the mood. We walked off the plan and weíre greeted by a one-man band playing Caribbean music on the tarmac.









Customs was right through the door (no long walks) and they were nice enough to let us skip the line because we were travelling with a baby (would never happen in America). Baggage claim was in the next room and within 10 minutes of landing, we were in a cab on the way to our hotel. I thought about renting a car but the underage fee (which canít be waived in the Caymans) would have made it more expensive then a cab. It was a fixed fair from the airport to our hotel ($23.10 USD) and the taxi drivers only take cash (they accept US cash and had change). After about a ten minute drive (on the left side of the road!), we pulled into the hotel.





Westin Grand Cayman

The entrance and lobby to the hotel are pretty nice. Not the most glorious, but it gave off an islandy feel. Because I only booked the hotel a week and a half before arrival, the only rooms available were island view (a nice way of saying street view). The room was nice, but nothing special. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of the room, but you can easily find them on their website.

While we found the staff to be very nice, the service definitely could have been better. Even though I requested a crib when I initially made the reservation, it took a reminder at the desk and a call down to the front desk two hours later to finally get it delivered. The staff was also unaware of the fact that an SPG Biz card gets free premium Internet (which was terrible anyways; Iíd be really upset if I got sucked into paying $12 per day for it). The lock on our patio door was also broken, and although the front desk said that they were sending maintenance up, that never happened.  I didnít even bother calling them to tell them that one of the outlet and lights werenít working, and it took several calls for fresh towels on our second day. I plan on calling SPG once Iím back home and maybe theyíll throw some points my way. (ETA: Called SPG on Friday afternoon when I got back to Miami. Calmly explained how I was a little disappointed and they immediately offered to give me 10k SPG points. I was more than happy with that because though the service wasnít what I expected, it didnít really detract from my enjoyment of the trip.)

Once we got to our room, we put our stuff down, threw the food in the fridge (every room has one) and headed down to the pool. The pool area is really nice and big, had more than enough lounge chairs and a nice bar.



We spent most of the day at the pool and some time at the beach.



After eating dinner in our room, we took a walk around the property. The pool and hot tubs are open until 11pm, and the bar at the pool was open until about 9pm (I think). We just sat outside at the pool, had a drink, and went back up to the room to go to sleep. There was also a life-sized checkerboard at the pool area so we played one game (I lost). It looked like there were some bars across the street but we were with our four-month-old daughter and were pretty tired from getting an early start in the morning.

The next morning, we woke up and got an early start because we wanted to spend some time at the pool before our scheduled tour of Stingray City at 11:15am. The concierge at the hotel had some suggestions for tours of Stingray City, but all those places were charging ~$90 per person and wouldnít even necessarily pick us up from the hotel. A couple that we were sitting next to at the pool suggested that we call Captain Marvinís (https://www.captainmarvins.com) because they were half the price. We called them and booked a 2.5 hour tour (2 stops Ė 1 at Stingray City and 1 snorkeling stop) for $40 per person. There was a 3 hour option for $5 more per person (and one more snorkeling stop) but we decided that 2.5 hours would work better for us because weíd feed our daughter right before we left and then her next feeding would be right after we got back.

Stingray City

After spending about an hour at the pool, we walked across the street to Captain Marvinís and signed in for our tour. (Another good part about choosing them; they left from right across the street.) Before I forget, Iíll mention that our friends who went to the Caymans last year told us about a Stingray City tour that takes you out on jet skis. We didnít look into it because we were taking our kid with us, so that didnít seem like an option. I donít know which tour companies do it with jet skis or what the prices are like, but Iím sure you can find them on Google. We actually saw a group like that while we were out on the water and it looked like a great time.



Back to Captain Marvinís, after checking in, we got onto a bus and took a five minute drive to their boat, which was docked at the bay. Once we got on, we drove through the bay, passed some really nice houses, and after about a 15 minute ride, got to our first stop Ė snorkeling. (The drivers check how busy each spot is and then determine which stop will be first.)







After anchoring the boat, the drivers gave us all snorkeling gear and life vests (if we wanted), and told us to just jump off the back of the boat. The water by the snorkeling stop was about eight to ten feet deep, and there were many different, beautifully colored fish. There is also one stingray that hangs out in that area (the drivers named him ďFrisbyĒ), so one of our drivers jumped in the water and brought Frisby up to the surface so we can get used to one stingray before going to stingray city and being surrounded by many more. Though the driver offered to stay with our daughter who was sleeping in the car seat and watch her, we decided to switch off instead. My wife went first for about 10-15 minutes, and then I jumped in for 10-15 minutes. The second I jumped in and took a peek under water, I realized that I shouldíve looked into renting a GoPro or underwater camera. (Mental note to look into this before travelling to MLE.) Unfortunately, I didnít so I canít really share any pictures of the fish.  I swam around for 15 minutes, touched Frisby, and fed some of the fish. The drivers brought along frozen squid for us to feed the fish and stingrays with. Feeding the fish was a really cool experience. Without the food, anytime I tried getting near the fish they just swam away. Once I had the squid in my hands, they all came towards me and nibbled on it from my hand.





After about 30 minutes total, the drivers asked us to get back on the boat so that we could make our way over to stingray city. It was only about a five minute boat ride from where we stopped to snorkel. Out of nowhere, the water got really shallow, clear and the greenest Iíve ever seen (maybe except for Phi Phi Island)! The water at stingray city is about three to four feet deep. They anchored the boat and told us to jump in with the stingrays. There were about three or four other groups there at the same time, but there were more than enough stingrays to go around. My wife and I took turns going in the water again. Our drivers were great at making sure each of us got to hold a stingray, kiss a stingray (they say itís seven years of good luck!), and get a back massage by a stingray. After DW and I got pictures with the stingrays, we had about 20 minutes to just swim around and try to hold the stingrays on our own and feed them squid. Feeding stingrays was an even cooler experience. Their mouth is on the bottom, so I just held out the squid under water and each time a stingray would just swim up and suck it out of my hand. Kind of felt like my hand was getting vacuumed! After being at stingray city for about 30 minutes, the drivers asked us to get back on the boat to head back to the docks.









The ride back to the dock was about 20 minutes of more beautiful ocean scenery. Back at the dock we saw some massive iguanas Ė apparently the Caymans are full of them.



Return to Hotel and End

Once back at the hotel we stopped at our room to have some lunch and then went down to the pool and beach to spend the rest of the day. We stuck around until a bit after sunset (which was beautiful), had one of the pool/beach boys take a couple of pictures of us, and then decided to head back to our room for dinner. We stopped by the souvenir shop on the way to buy a Cayman Islands shot glass. I decided that Iím going to buy a shot glass from every country that I visit as a souvenir. I hope to one day have a nice collection.

After dinner, we thought about taking a walk up and down the block that the Westin is on but then our daughter fell asleep so we just packed up (our flight was at 8:20am the next morning) and watched a little TV before going to sleep.

The next morning, we checked out at about 6:30 in the morning. There were some cabs parked outside the hotel so the bellboy hailed one for us and we drove off to the airport.  The ride was $23.10 USD again. After checking in, we quickly went through security and relaxed at the gate until our flight. The whole airport has about seven gates and half of the seating is outside in an air-conditioned tent.





They eventually called our flight and we walked up the aircraft steps onto the plane.



Hope you guys enjoyed reading and found it to be informative! Let me know if you have any feedback!

Offline philbenjoe

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Re: CS91's Surprise Trip to the Cayman Islands
« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2016, 04:08:40 PM »
Thanks. Great report!
"Why fit in when you were born to stand out?" Dr Seuss

Offline E-MAN

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Re: CS91's Surprise Trip to the Cayman Islands
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2016, 04:35:12 PM »
Thanks for sharing!

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: CS91's Surprise Trip to the Cayman Islands
« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2016, 04:36:26 PM »
Thanks for writing. It's always good to have more TRs of places less visited here on DDF.

Offline sam28

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Re: CS91's Surprise Trip to the Cayman Islands
« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2016, 04:54:42 PM »
Thanks for the TR nice job .

Offline Chapshnell

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Re: CS91's Surprise Trip to the Cayman Islands
« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2016, 04:58:27 PM »
excellent write up, thanks for taking the time. Great job. Added to bucket list. Always wanted to go to this place

Online Joe4007

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Re: CS91's Surprise Trip to the Cayman Islands
« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2016, 04:59:50 PM »
Nice TR. Thanks!

Offline ari9

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Re: CS91's Surprise Trip to the Cayman Islands
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2016, 05:03:02 PM »
Nice, thanks. What did you take the pics with?

Offline Dawie

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Re: CS91's Surprise Trip to the Cayman Islands
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2016, 05:38:41 PM »
Nice!

Offline CS91

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Re: CS91's Surprise Trip to the Cayman Islands
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2016, 06:18:38 PM »
Nice, thanks. What did you take the pics with?
iPhone 6.   :D

Offline rediplus

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Re: CS91's Surprise Trip to the Cayman Islands
« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2016, 06:36:14 PM »
thanks for sharing. were there any dolphin activities ? how about money laundering ? supposed to be one of the best places to hide money.

Offline CS91

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Re: CS91's Surprise Trip to the Cayman Islands
« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2016, 06:53:37 PM »
thanks for sharing. were there any dolphin activities ? how about money laundering ? supposed to be one of the best places to hide money.
Didn't look into dolphin activities because we've done that already, though I'm sure that there are. Even if I did launder money, don't think I'd include that in a TR.  ;D

Offline EJB

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Re: CS91's Surprise Trip to the Cayman Islands
« Reply #12 on: January 11, 2016, 07:06:47 PM »
Nice!

Offline AROCKS1

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Re: CS91's Surprise Trip to the Cayman Islands
« Reply #13 on: January 11, 2016, 07:30:09 PM »
This looks like a really great trip! I'm glad the headache I caused you diddnt make it as an honorable mention! :)

Offline DMYD

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Re: CS91's Surprise Trip to the Cayman Islands
« Reply #14 on: January 11, 2016, 07:43:01 PM »
Wow some spots in the ocean looks more like a swimming pool. great TR thanks for sharing

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: CS91's Surprise Trip to the Cayman Islands
« Reply #15 on: January 11, 2016, 09:03:03 PM »
Thanks for sharing!! Great first TR. Nice to have more info about the Caymans. Snorkeling looked great and the hotel looks beautiful.

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Re: CS91's Surprise Trip to the Cayman Islands
« Reply #16 on: January 11, 2016, 09:12:18 PM »
Thanks for the TR. I actually feel warmer (on this freezing night) looking at these pics.

Offline Denverite

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Re: CS91's Surprise Trip to the Cayman Islands
« Reply #17 on: January 11, 2016, 10:04:27 PM »
Thanks so much for the TR.  The water looked gorgeous and the Sting Ray tour on the jet skis looked so cool.  Do they have any rules like Mexico about not bringing in meat?  It seems like they totally let you slide without checking anything but in general can you bring whatever food you want?  Thanks again for the great TR.

Offline CS91

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Re: CS91's Surprise Trip to the Cayman Islands
« Reply #18 on: January 11, 2016, 10:59:42 PM »
Thanks so much for the TR.  The water looked gorgeous and the Sting Ray tour on the jet skis looked so cool.  Do they have any rules like Mexico about not bringing in meat?  It seems like they totally let you slide without checking anything but in general can you bring whatever food you want?  Thanks again for the great TR.
I don't know what the rule is with fruits and vegetables but with meat, as long as it has a stamp it's good. I checked off on the declaration form that I was bringing in meat (we brought deli), and when I got to customs, they just asked if it was stamped and when I said yes, they let me through. They didn't even ask to see it.

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Re: CS91's Surprise Trip to the Cayman Islands
« Reply #19 on: January 11, 2016, 11:09:44 PM »
I don't know what the rule is with fruits and vegetables but with meat, as long as it has a stamp it's good. I checked off on the declaration form that I was bringing in meat (we brought deli), and when I got to customs, they just asked if it was stamped and when I said yes, they let me through. They didn't even ask to see it.

That's great.  Thanks.