Western Caribbean Cruise: Grand Cayman

by Stephany on May 28, 2012

First and foremost, Happy Memorial Day to my American friends! This is a special day for us, honoring those who have protected our freedom to the highest sacrifice. You are never forgotten and deeply appreciated.

Today, it’s all about Grand Cayman! While I wouldn’t call Grand Cayman my favorite island in the Caribbean, it still offers some of the best excursions of my cruises.

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We stopped in Grand Cayman on Wednesday, the fourth day of our cruise. The day before was dreary and rainy and gloomy but Wednesday morning dawned bright and sunny. It was the perfect weather for a day on the water!

Our excursion didn’t start until 10:00 but we had to check in by 9:15 so we woke up early, showered, and headed down for breakfast. (Still missing the breakfast buffets…) In Grand Cayman, they have to put down anchor in the middle of the ocean and we ride by tender to the island. 
 
Being back in Grand Cayman felt a little like coming back home. I remembered the place so well, this little touristy area of the Cayman Islands, full of shops and tour guides shouting about great places to visit to anyone who would listen. My mom and I wandered around the shops for a while before checking in with our excursion guide. We still had a long time to wait until we needed to check in but I was being super neurotic about time that day, so we basically just stood around for a good half-hour. (My mom wanted to look around at the shops, but I was being a pain that day.)

In any event, we were off on our excursion soon enough. Our group was pretty huge, split into three different vans. We drove to Dolphin Cove, which was about a twenty-minute ride. There’s really not all that much to see in this part of Grand Cayman (aside from the stretch of the 7-Mile Beach but as a Florida gal, I have seen my fair share of beaches). We arrived at Dolphin Cove soon enough and walked through a bird sanctuary to get to the boat that would take us to Stingray City.

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As many of you know, my mom and I visited Stingray City last year and absolutely loved it so we were excited to be back again. We loved it just as much the second time:

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We spent about 30 minutes in the water with the sting rays where we kissed and held the rays, as well as getting to experience feeding a stingray – which is weird! Basically, you held calamari in your fist and held your fist below the water. The stingrays would come right up to you and SCHLOP! it out of your fist. It was pretty freaky! But also so fun and cute. :)

There were so many stingrays where we were swimming at. I can’t even tell you how many times I would just be standing around and feel a stingray bump against my leg as it was swimming past. (Yes, it’s as freaky as it sounds. But also so cool!) And I got my requisite kissing stingray photo for the year.

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Sloppy and wet! Just how I like them.

Or not. I wouldn’t know.

Let’s move on.

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After our time with the stingrays, we all loaded back onto the boat to go back to Dolphin Cove. The boat ride to and from Stingray City was 30 minutes each way, which took an hour out of our day. (And I’m pretty sure the boat ride from Stingray City is where I developed a bit of a shoulder sun burn. Not a fan!) We were back before we knew it and our big group split up into three different groups: the people who had just paid for Stingray City, the people who were doing the dolphin encounter, and the people who were doing the dolphin swim.

We got into the dolphin encounter group where we had a short lesson on the dolphins and what we would be doing. And then it was time to get in the water!

Our group split into two different groups of 15 and half of that group would be in the water at one time. My mom and I were in the first group to get in the water. We stood on a ledge in the pool and had about 20 minutes with the dolphin. Our dolphin was a male named Nemo and he was the Most Fun! He swam around us so we could pet him, splashed us, and then calmed down enough to do some dancing and kissing with us!

We each had a turn dancing with him. We put our hands out and Nemo would come up so we could take his fins and do a little jig! It was so fun! I didn’t get a picture of this because the pictures were $15 a pop and I had to be choosy. (We couldn’t take our own cameras, which had one of the participants complaining loudly about. Whatever. There are better things to complain about, in my book.)

Once we all had a turn dancing with Nemo, it was time for kissing! We would stand close to the edge of the ledge with our hands behind our backs, leaning forward so he could kiss us on the cheek. Once he came up and kissed us, we got to kiss him back! I gave him a big ole smackeroo and when we finished, Nemo did a little dance in the water! I was the only one he danced for after kissing, so basically, he wants to be my boyfriend. (And as a side note: the trainer asked if I wanted to kiss him or Nemo. An odd comment but, um, he was cute so… both?)

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Nemo played a little hard to get with my mom when she tried to get a kiss from him but after much hemming and hawing, he did.

After the kiss, we took pictures with Nemo, where we got to hold him but those pictures turned out horrible so we only ended up buying one picture. The prices were pretty expensive ($15 a picture – and they weren’t the best quality – but no sale prices for buying a bundle of pictures. You could buy a set of ALL the pictures for $80 but that included everyone’s photos which… why would I want to pay that much for pictures of people I don’t even know?!)

We wound up on the bus back to Grand Cayman around 1:00. We were starving by that time but couldn’t find too many places within walking distance to eat at, plus the line going back on the ship was already starting to get pretty heavy so we decided to get in line and eat lunch back on the ship. (Plus, hi, it’s free!)

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It was a fun day in Grand Cayman and I’m so happy we did this excursion! Unfortunately, it was a longer one so we didn’t have any time to shop afterwards but that’s okay. Experiences > stuff, in my opinion. I thought the dolphin encounter would feel weird and super touristy, but it was actually one of my favorite moments from my cruise. The trainers were awesome and while I most definitely want to do a dolphin swim someday, I didn’t regret only choosing the encounter. We didn’t get a WHOLE lot of time with Nemo, but even just those 20 minutes were pretty awesome. I wish the picture prices were more affordable, but what can you do? It’s a tourist trap!

If you’re ever in Grand Cayman, please, please, please visit Stingray City. I know it sounds freaky – swimming with stingrays – but these stingrays are domesticated and in the two times I’ve gone there, there have been no stingray attacks. (I even stepped on one by accident this time and didn’t get attacked!) It’s such an amazing experience and just to say I’ve gone there twice is incredible to me.

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In any event, it was a fun day on the island and then a relaxing afternoon on the boat. We had another lovely, yummy dinner but it was early to bed for us because JAMAICA awaited us in the morning! Bob-sledding, zip-lining, shopping, oh my!

What’s the craziest thing you’ve done while on vacation? Would you ever visit Stingray City, if you have the chance?

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Melissa May 28, 2012 at 8:16 am

THIS SOUNDS LIKE SO MUCH FUN!! I love that you were able to go to the same place twice. I sincerely hope that one day I’ll be able to take a vacation that brings me back (even briefly) to somewhere I’ve already been. I always get so nostalgic when I leave a vacation spot because I feel like I may never see it again. It was the WORST in Greece because the first island I stayed on felt like home. Literally, we were staying with family, we were staying in a home, and we were there for 9 days. Plus it was a no internet/tv/etc island so we got to know our little home so well. I’m pretty sure I was near tears when I left! It’s one of the tougher islands to get to though, but I hope to go back one day!

I would DEFINITELY do the same excursion as you! I really want to do a dolphin encounter but I’ve heard negative things about how dolphins are held in captivity just for tourists and that makes me feel awful.. But they seem so sweet! I don’t know. I have mixed feelings about it. But still, your pictures are so awesome & I just love the idea of swimming with these sea creatures. The sting ray one looks SO cool too!

Craziest thing I’ve ever done on vacation, let’s see… I don’t feel like I’m very crazy on vacation lol! Well, there was that time in Greece I had to go down 600 stairs with like 200 donkeys. I nearly got trampled. It was TERRIFYING but when the donkeys weren’t freaking out it was kind of hilarious. 600 stairs is really hard on the legs though so I took a lift back up! That’s the first thing that came to mind ha. Classic donkey experience in Greece, obviously.

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Stephany May 29, 2012 at 12:35 pm

The place we were at, Dolphin Cove, the dolphins would actually not survive by themselves in the wild. They come there to be rehabilitated. So they have a very cool mission and you’re basically supporting their cause! I totally understand your dilemma, though, and I’ll admit there was this weirdness to the whole experience. But it was also really cool so I’m on the fence!

The stingrays are so amazing. I could go there again and again and love it just as much. It was cool to feed them, too! We didn’t get to do that when we visited last year.

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Lisa of Lisa's Yarns May 28, 2012 at 8:57 am

Looks like a fun excursion! My boss has been to Cayman the last 3 years, but I have only seen pictures of the place they rent and the beach out front, so it was cool to see another part of Cayman. I will have to tell him that they should check this out if they go again next year!

The craziest thing I have done on a vacation was this ‘adventure day’ in New Zealand called “The Triple Threat”. I can’t remember the order of things, but we bungee jumped from the 3rd highest location (at that time) which was so fun and so scary, and then jet boated in this river, which was a pretty thrilling ride as we went through these narrow canyons, and then we took a helicopter ride. It was an amazing day and an experience I will never forget!

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Stephany May 29, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Wow! That sounds like my kind of adventure. I love doing things like that on vacation because, really, when else are you going to do it?? It’s exhilarating!

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Travel Spot May 29, 2012 at 1:53 am

Wow, that stingray adventure looks like a lot of fun! The water there is so clear too! I love the Caribbean! I have never been to Grand Cayman though. I’m putting it on my list!

The craziest thing I have done is probably…hitchhiking in Africa. I have done bungee jumping and skydiving, but for some reason the hitchhiking was more scary, I guess.

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Stephany May 29, 2012 at 4:08 pm

UM, YES. Hitchhiking in Africa? I don’t think I could have done that. Although, skydiving is one of those NEVER WILL I EVER things so that’s scary to me, also. Ha!

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E May 29, 2012 at 3:02 am

Now I just really want to go somewhere warm, sunny, and sandy. Tropical vacation for one please! Stingray City looks so cool. And I can’t wait to hear/see Jamaica!

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Stephany May 31, 2012 at 9:44 am

If you ever find yourself in Grand Cayman, you must make a visit there! It’s really so fun and the best experience. :)

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Linda May 29, 2012 at 9:41 am

The crazy things I’ve done are usually not when I’m on vacation. So skydiving and gun shooting and rolling around in a ball down a hill, all local stuff. Craziest thing I’ve done on vacation must be eat more than my weight in food. And yes, totally would visit Stingray City.

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Stephany May 31, 2012 at 9:46 am

I still want to roll around in a ball down a hill. If I ever make it up to Texas to visit you, we’re doing that. :)

The best thing about cruises is you can order two appetizers, two entrees, and two desserts at dinner and NOBODY JUDGES YOU. It’s the best, really.

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Amber May 29, 2012 at 2:43 pm

That looks REALLY fun! Swimming with dolphins is something on my bucket list. Not so sure about the swimming with stingrays thing though… ;)

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Stephany May 31, 2012 at 9:47 am

Haha, I remember your comments on my post last year about Stingray City. I promise it’s not as scary as it sounds!

Totally want to do more dolphin excursions as I do more cruises. It was such a fun day!

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Lauren Michelle May 29, 2012 at 4:29 pm

I never did anything so fun on the two cruises I went on as a kid. The only thing I remember is riding a jet ski with my dad in Nassau on the ocean. Being that I used to do that all the time on the lake it was nothing new to me, and quite frankly it was really uncomfortable because the waves are obviously so much bigger in the ocean. If I get to do a cruise again, I’m going to make sure I sign up for fun, exciting things to do. Okay, so I do remember getting corn rows at Co Co Cay, but that was a painful experience.

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Stephany May 31, 2012 at 10:33 am

We need to get you on a cruise ASAP! There is SO much to do & see. You missed out on your last one. You need to come with me. We’ll have fun. :)

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San May 30, 2012 at 7:45 pm

This looks like SO MUCH FUN! :) I can’t believe you got to kiss (and get kissed by) a dolphin (much preferred over the sting ray, just FYI!). :)

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Stephany May 31, 2012 at 10:34 am

Haha! Yeah, the dolphin kiss was a bit less sloppy & wet than the stingray. Both were awesome, though.

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