Travelling to Grand Cayman March 29 & 30, 2014

Our favorite spot on Grand Cayman

Our favorite spot on Grand Cayman

In 2001, Brian and I took a lovely Caribbean cruise and one port of call was the Grand Cayman Island.  We toured “Hell”, the Turtle Farm and went to Sting Ray City to feed the stingrays. We were impressed with the island and thought we might like to return one day.  We have used the web site Vacation Rentals By Owner several times in the past few years and frequently rent from Pat Lillo. We got to meet Pat and her husband last year and she mentioned she had several rental properties and listed one in Grand Cayman. St Morritt's After a short back and forth on email, we decided on Grand Cayman.  If you are interested in contacting Pat, you can find her rentals at www.facebook.com/PatLilloVacationRentals.com  Her rental on Grand Cayman is the Morritt’s Tortuga Club on the east end of the island.  Luckily we were able to find reasonably priced flights if you didn’t mind flying the red eye.  We left Calgary early Sunday morning and arrived in Toronto 6 a.m. local time. After breakfast and a long wait we boarded the plane for Cayman.  Both flights were full so neither of us were able to grab any shut eye.

We arrived in Cayman a few minutes early, arriving at the same time as a British Airways flight. As soon as the door opened we were hit with a blast of hot humid air. I had read on Trip Advisor, clearing customs at the airport could be very slow and it lived up to the reputation.  We were seated near the front of the plane so we were able to get off quickly and managed to stand in line inside the air conditioned terminal, but those getting off the planes after us, were left to wait in the heat of the day…in the sun.  I think Cayman time is like Mexico time, at first there were 3 customs agents but soon we were down to two.  We were in line for 45 minutes but others waited up to two hours before clearing customs.  At least our luggage was sorted and waiting for us.  A quick walk across the parking lot to Andy’s Car Rental to pick up the rental.  The Morritt’s is at the far east end of the island and is a 45 min drive from the airport. We had booked a car for the entire two weeks but here is a hint to anyone staying at the Morritts….get a rental at the airport for the first day or two, then you can turn the car back at the Andy’s Kiosk across the street from the resort and then rent on a daily basis after that.

I has been worried about driving on the left side of the road, and also concerned about managing the “Round Abouts.”  Getting out of the airport was tricky and driving those first few hundred yards was a challenge, but once out of the airport the driving on the left became easier. 

Our retirement home - as soon as we win the lotto!

Our retirement home – as soon as we win the lotto!

We made one small wrong turn on our way to the resort, but got there quite easily.  Despite arriving after 4 pm, our room was not ready, so we opted to sit by a pool and wait.  Once again Trip Advisor was helpful and we found this resort had very mixed reviews.  At least we knew the resort had construction going on, repairs from the last hurricane.  Despite renting from an owner, we were given a suite at the back of the resort,  and in one of the older buildings.  ( We should have been upgraded to ocean view.) The condition of the suite was only so so however it had one plus….it was at the furthest end of the resort and a pool right outside our suite.  No one seemed to know this pool was here and most days only a handful of people were at the pool.  No getting up early to reserve a chair by the pool! 
Mimi's Bar - St Morritt's Tortuga Club

Mimi’s Bar – St Morritt’s Tortuga Club

It was a very quiet part of the resort so for us that was a plus. After a brief unpacking, we went to Mimi’s Bar for a fish and chip dinner.  The scenery is beautiful from the bar and a cool breeze was very welcomed.  A very long day….but glad to be in the land of ocean breezes and palm trees, so much better than the land of snow and cold ( at least for awhile.)

March 31, 2014–Touring the Island

After a night of no sleeping then being busy all day, my back went into spasms last night, so I took a pain killer at bedtime and slept like the dead….awaking with a numb arm! Fortunately a hot shower helped. We decided to have breakfast at the on sight restaurant and went for an expensive morning buffet.  We knew from the onset the prices in Cayman were going to be steep compared to home and that proved true. When they added in the 15% gratuity and I convert to Canadian dollars I think it was close to $50.  Wouldn’t have been that bad except the service was non existent and the few food items available were cold.

Brian and I have managed to avoid resort hotels for several years now, preferring to have a suite and do most of the cooking ourselves. We needed to get groceries and while there is a small store close to the resort, we opted to go to Fosters by the airport. 

Setting sun over the Morritt's Resort

Setting sun over the Morritt’s Resort

The drive was pleasant and no problems with driving on the left. Fosters have several stores on the island but the one by the airport appears to be the largest and the busiest.  The store is well laid out with a huge deli section where hot and cold entrees are available. I think I was expecting the selection to be similar to Mexico but the selection was very much like what you would see in the US but with several “ British” items in stock as well.

As we were in George Town  we decided to tour more of the island and drove to the West Bay area.  We found the Turtle farm and “Hell” but just did a drive by today.  Those were the only things looking familiar since our brief visit 13 years ago.  This part of the island is the big tourist area of 7 mile beach with wall to wall hotels. We were impressed with how well kept the streets, buildings and roads were.   Once we returned to the resort we put away groceries, has a light lunch and hit the pool chairs.  We met several other Canadian couples enjoying this quiet pool area and spent the afternoon enjoying the heat and the conversation.

Every Monday the Morritt’s offers a Welcome dinner buffet for the newly arriving guests so we opted to give it a try. The food wasn’t bad and had several local dishes to offer.  The owner of the resort speaks at each of these weekly dinners and quite frankly appears to be full of himself.  The resort received significant damage with the last hurricane, and they are rebuilding as well as building one new complex.

New Construction at the Morritt's Tortuga Club Grand Cayman

New Construction at the Morritt’s Tortuga Club Grand Cayman

The reconstruction is taking a lot longer than anticipated and trip advisor has many complaints about the construction and noise.  From what we could see the resort is long overdo for refurbishing and upgrades. During the dinner the owner announced he is withdrawing from the Timeshare aspect of the business and hopes to sell each suite outright.  The old suite we are in is priced at $245,000 Cayman, so over $300,000 Canadian and comes as is. The suite is about 550 sq ft and all appliances and furnishings appear original…so 20 years old.  I understand from talking to current time share owners, the resort is willing to take back their week or weeks at no compensation.  I also understand the annual maintenance few if $1000 per time share week, so is one of the most expensive time shares to own.  Our owner is considering letting the week go so they don’t have to continue to pay the annual fee and just bite the bullet and take the loss.  Having said this, the owner is still selling time share weeks into the newest building under construction!  Talk about mixed messaging!

We did have a fun time at the dinner as they had local entertainment, games, dancing and prizes. We were just too jet lagged to stay for long.

Enjoying ourselves at the welcome dinner

Enjoying ourselves at the welcome dinner

April Fool’s Day 2014 Staying Close to Home

Today was a “pool” day…….one of many we had during our two week stay.  Brian and I both enjoy sitting poolside and reading. For a number of years now I bring along a blow up mattress/pool toy to put on top of the lounge type pool chair.  It is much more comfortable than the plastic webbing the chairs come with or adds to the padding of the padded chairs.  I have been known to doze off of one of these chairs. Over the years I have been told this is a clever idea and once I sold my air mattress for 10 times more than I paid for it, on the day we were departing. We are finding the humidity a bit of an adjustment and the sun is searing if you sit in it for any length of time.  Today we used sunscreen 60 and I still burned in places.   We met several Canadians poolside today and spent more time chatting than reading which is unusual for us.  Close to us is a restaurant owned and operated by an Auzzie. 

One of the dining options at the Tukka is eating on the beach, where this sign is located

One of the dining options at the Tukka is eating on the beach, where this sign is located

The name of the restaurant is TUKKA which sounds like Auzzie for the word “tucker,” meaning food. On Walk About Wednesdays the menu offers such delights as Kangaroo and Crocodile, fortunately today was not Wednesday so we opted for an appetizer and fish and chips.  We drove the distance to the restaurant but they offer free transportation to those staying at the Morritts.

beachside seats at the Tukka restaurant

beachside seats at the Tukka restaurant

Rum Point

Our favorite place on Grand Cayman - Rum Point

Our favorite place on Grand Cayman – Rum Point

Rum Point was highly recommended to us and it lived up to expectations.  It was a lovely 25 min drive along the remote east coastline and relatively easy to find.  By the time our Grand Cayman trip was over, we had visited Rum Point 4 times.  Our first visit was April 2.  We arrived just before 10 a.m. and found several areas were cordoned off ( for cruise ship guests). We had plenty of room on the beach and found a beach chair at the edge of the water under the provided canopy.  Shortly thereafter the cruise lines dropped off their guests, so for awhile it was pretty busy. On this day we waited until the added guests left ( around 1 pm) and decided to have lunch. 

Creative Rum Point Restaurant Menu and Holder

Creative Rum Point Restaurant Menu and Holder

They have several picnic tables and very unique menu holders – menus  tied to a rope and coconut to prevent them from flying away in the breeze.

The owners of Rum Point have done a great job of making this a destination stop for the island.  The beach itself is very nice although a bit rocky (bring water shoes), and the shallow water extends out 25’ so great for children. There are watersports on sight if one wanted  to rent a sea doo or snorkeling gear.

The guy with the goofy hat is Brian - enjoying Rum Point

The guy with the goofy hat is Brian – enjoying Rum Point

While we were there we saw various fish, eels and a stingray.  On sight you can find change rooms, showers, huts, hammocks and beach volleyball all at no charge.  The on sight restaurant and bar have great wait staff and serve a variety of meals and drinks. You must try the mudslide – their specialty drink. We can recommend the fish and chip offering which we had on two occasions.

Beautiful colored water off Rum Point

Beautiful colored water off Rum Point

Dining out in the East End of Grand Cayman

Brian and I prefer condo style living when on vacation.  We like being able to have breakfast and lunch on our own and often go out for dinner.  We tried several spots in the East End of Grand Cayman. We always like to try local fare so one of our first dining experiencing was Vivien’s Restaurant, near Gun Point.

Vivien's Restaurant, Grand Cayman, patio area

Vivien’s Restaurant, Grand Cayman, patio area

The hostess serves the meals from her home kitchen via a lean to attached to the house.  The dining is pretty rustic outside the house in the garden area.  The garden is quite nice with grape tress all around and a beautiful beach view.  The food is authentic Caymanian and most obtained locally including the turtles for her famous turtle stew.  We opted for the beef stew which was quite tasty and came with no less than 7 side dishes.  We didn’t have room for dessert but that didn’t stop us from taking home a piece of rum cake for later ( it turned out to be the best part of the meal).  Certainly the locals frequent this place more than tourists.  We gave it a try but the fare was only so so.

Another night we opted for the Italian Kitchen which is located in the strip mall across from the resort. At first glance we thought it was a pizza place and just wore casual clothes.  The tables are laid with linen and it look more upscale than we had expected.  The got there early which was good as within 20 minutes of our arrival, it was full with a line up.  Once we got our meals ( Brian  – pizza) (I got beef ribs with polenta) we quickly understood why the line up.  The food was great.  The cheese polenta was the best I have ever had. The portion sizes were large so the doggy bag take home gave us a second evening meal.  I would score the Italian Kitchen 8 of 10.

On our many trips back and forth from the city we had spotted a tiny restaurant called

Chef Remy at the Bombay Chopstick Restaurant

Chef Remy at the Bombay Chopstick Restaurant

Bombay Chopsticks.  We decided to give it a try and I would rate it 10 or 10.  The service was excellent and the food divine.  The café is owned by Chef Remy who is well known in the cooking world.  He greeted us during our meal and we had a lovely conversation.  The café serves an Asian/Caribbean  fusion and was excellent.  We were treated to a complimentary appetizer and later dessert.  I would call Bombay Chopsticks a “must” for visitors.

As we were staying at the Morritt’s, we tried “David’s” on sight restaurant. We had the breakfast on two occasions and dinner once.  The service was poor to non existent and the food mediocre to poor.  Skip eating here if at all possible.

Many ships sunk around Grand Cayman after hitting the reef - here is part of a sunken anchor

Many ships sunk around Grand Cayman after hitting the reef – here is part of a sunken anchor

Wrap Up of our Two Week Grand Cayman Stay March 31, 2014 to April 13, 2014

When we visited the island in 2001 as part of a Caribbean cruise, we toured the Turtle Farm and a place called Hell.  In one of our drives we came across the tourist spot called Hell and as the attraction is free, we stopped in for a short visit.

Hell, Grand Cayman with local iguana providing interest

Hell, Grand Cayman with local iguana providing interest

Of course we purchased a couple of mementos saying “ We’ve been to Hell and back”   and a tee shirt then went to the back of the property to view “hell”.  Hell is a rock formation that looks very much like it was created by volcanic action but it is dolomite rock worn with weather and water erosion.  They had a couple of large iguanas to entertain us, but really the place should be a “pass” for most travellers. We didn’t stop at the turtle farm but did find out that the farm actually farms the turtles for local consumption.  I thought they raised them in efforts of preservation!

On our drive to Rum Point we would pass a home with a table in the front yard, with Conch shells for sale.  They were selling them for $5 a piece.  When we had visited the Bahamas they wanted upwards of $35 so I decided to buy one before we left.

Main Pool View St Morritt's Grand Cayman

Main Pool View St Morritt’s Grand Cayman

Brian was worried about being able to bring it into Canada but the internet information led me to believe we were OK.  I put it in my carry on so it would be seen by security and was prepared to give it up if we couldn’t take it back to Canada.  Once on the flight and completing the customs forms they do ask if you are bringing “shells” back but I opted to pick no.  All went well and the Conch shell is displayed in our living room now. I can’t imagine why it would be banned.  The shell had been scrubbed clean and bleached ( I asked) and could not pose any problem to prairie wild life.  As the island has heaps of conch shells and it is part of the local diet…they are not endangered…so don’t understand what the issue would be.

On our last day we opted to have breakfast at the resort and found the food and service just as bad as the first day.  Check out went well.  We used the air conditioner very briefly each day and ended up paying $42 per week for power.  Continued use of the air conditioner usually runs $150 per week.  I wish I had used more, as much of the time I suffered with a heat rash. We returned our car to the rental company and again Andy’s proved to be a professional business and the return done quickly and easily. The trip to Toronto and onward to Calgary was pretty uneventful. It was back to winter but nice to have had a sunny warm break none the less.

Good Bye Grand Cayman

Good Bye Grand Cayman