One of the most popular cruise ports in the Caribbean, by all cruise lines, would be the world-famous Grand Cayman Island. The Cayman Islands, consisting of Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, and Cayman Brac, are a colony of Great Britain. Tourism and banking are the primary economic sources and the Cayman Islands are a hub for international banking and finance.
So it should come as no surprise that shopping in Georgetown, Grand Cayman, is divine; spilling over with jewelry, antiques, and fine art. It is often referred to as the “jewelry capital of the Caribbean”. Think ritzy! Even the cruise pier will entice you with its shopping quality and deals. Due to the shallow waters near the shores, you will have to be “tendered” over from your cruise ship, probably to the Royal Watler pier, over to Georgetown Harbour.
When you first lay eyes on Seven Mile Beach, or feel the powdery coral sand beneath your feet, you will be under Grand Cayman’s spell. It is no wonder it is a mecca for scuba divers and marine ecologists, and a favorite for snorkelers, with its miles of coral reefs and vivid underwater colors. Rather than pay for a cruise excursion to take you to the beach, just catch a cab in front of the pier and go to Seven Mile Beach. There you can rent jet-skis, kayaks, umbrellas, have drinks, eat lunch, or book other water sports. Make sure to bring plenty of money.
If you do not like crowds, this is not going to be an enjoyable port for you. Often there may be up to five ships docked on any given day, and the tiny sidewalks and congested main street make it very difficult for walking. You may at least opt for getting off the boat and strolling a short distance.
Enjoy the steel drum musicians as they welcome you to their country. Explore the Elmslie Memorial Church or visit the Cayman Islands National Museum, which is nearby. Drop by Paradise Restaurant for free WIFI and very overpriced food. Access to the ocean for snorkeling is $5 from that location and they rent masks, fins, and other necessities as well. I would recommend wearing water shoes.
Special things to shop for in the Cayman’s are black corals, diamonds, and luxury watches. Often the jewelry stores will have a discount on specialized brands such as David Yurman and John Hardy. Also, there are deep discounts available for a great variety of perfumes. Guy Harvey has a shop near the pier and at times, he is at the store where you can meet him. A great souvenir is the Cayman’s moist and tasty rum cake; my favorite being the original golden cake flavor.
Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville is one of the most popular things to do on the island, offers a swim up bar, and no matter the time of day, there will always be some kind of dance or drinking contest taking place. They do not seem very concerned about the age of participants, but you can win t-shirts and free drinks just for participating. Unless you are on a land trip in the Caymans, I would say skip the very pricey and average food.
Have you ever wanted to go to hell? Probably not, but just for the fun of it, how about a visit to the town with its namesake. Hell, a cheesy little town in Grand Cayman is where sending quintessential postcards and pictures of being in “Hell” are all the rage. Jagged limestone formations resembling flames jut up from the ground. Hell is located a short drive from Georgetown. This is a must for the first time visitor.
Grand Cayman has an abundance of iguanas and is famous for its endangered blue iguanas. Birdwatching is a big draw here and colorful parrots are plentiful. Many excursions take you to the Cayman Turtle Farm, home to 16,000 turtles that is used as a breeding ground and for research. Petting and taking pictures with the turtles come along with the fun.
Swim with a dolphin is another great crowd pleaser and though I have not done it, we were able to visit the facility and see it action. This is an expensive activity and from what I saw, it seems you get to swim back and forth, maybe twice, holding on to the dolphin, and pet them. Everyone seems to love it though, so maybe sometime I will add to my list. The vibrant flowers on Grand Cayman are succulent and must be photographed.
Grand Cayman Island Fun Facts:
FYI: I was at Grand Cayman with some friends who had all been there before. We ended up hiring a tour guide at the taxi stand, Frenchy, who took us to all the sites. We got a behind the scenes, so to speak, tasting tour at the Rum Factory and Rum Cake Factory, and to watch the Swim with a Dolphin, and other tourist places. We had our guide drop us off at Seven Mile Beach, then paid for a taxi back to the pier at the end of the day. This was a huge saving and we could write our own itinerary; plus Frenchy was a blast!
FYI: The Cayman Island flag pairs British Union Jack with the Cayman Islands crest against a dark blue flag.
TIP: Cuban cigars are popular here so treat yourself and take one back to enjoy on the cruise ship.
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