Monday, July 21, 2014

Changes in Latitude, Attitude: Vacation in Grand Cayman

My family and I just returned from our vacation on Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman, BWI.  Quite literally, it was a change in latitude and change in attitude for all six of us! My husband and I have vacationed in Cayman for the last fifteen years (with the exception of 2005, the year after Hurricane Ivan), and have taken my daughters and their spouses several of those years, including this year.

This was the view outside our condo rental this year, from our living room.  The Spanish architectural arches of the buildings' exteriors were the perfect frame for the perfect view.
Our view of Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman, from our condo rental living room
We have never been to Grand Cayman during high season (December to April), so we pretty much are used to having our beach space mostly to ourselves.  The video sound and site below is what we are used to on our beach area during our stay at Cayman:
video

Each day, my husband would be the first one up, and his job was to claim chairs on either side of our walkway out to the beach.  After the tough job of laying towels out, Mr. P. would take a break.
Mr. P., taking a break from his work on Seven Mile Beach
Back in 1998, Mr. P. offered me the opportunity to get SCUBA (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) certified at Grand Cayman, one of the world's top diving destinations. The standard PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) requirements involve both classroom/pool skills, accompanied with open-water dives to demonstrate abilities that allow you to dive to 100' foot depths for recreation.  I said, "yea, I think I can do that!", completed my classroom/pool work at home, and the open water dives in Grand Cayman in 1999.
That's me, completing SCUBA certification, 1999, with Red Sail Sports Grand Cayman
Our primary purpose for vacationing in Cayman is for scuba diving each year. We dive exclusively with Red Sails Sports Grand Cayman. The crew of Red Sail are second to none, some of whom have been there since we've been going, like our buddy Clive Webb.
Clive Webb, Mgr at Red Sail, with daughter B (she wants to work there).
The underwater vistas at Grand Cayman are stunning, whether it's sheer cliff walls or shipwrecks, and the wildlife and coral reefs do not disappoint! These next four photos were taken by Red Sail staff on our dives.
Fireman sil, exploring the underwater coral ledges at GCM, with Mr. P, following
Oldest daughter and sil, on the Kittywake sunken shipwreck, with Mr. P and me exploring in background
Coral life undersea at Grand Cayman (dive boat visible on surface at top right corner)
Spotted eagle ray (stingray), soaring across ocean floor, Grand Cayman dive site
Never would I have thought my kids would also become divers and enjoy these trips with us, too. Over the years, we have gifted them trips for momentous occasions (college graduations and part of wedding budget choices).  We have really come to enjoy this time together, and our groove is a good one in that the kids do most of our cooking and this year even did our grocery shopping (yay!).

My oldest daughter and her husband became SCUBA certified in 2011, and they are interested in becoming advanced divers sometime in their future.
Oldest daughter and sil, with me, Mr. P., 2014, after a 2-tank North Wall dive trip, GCM
My younger daughter completed the classroom/pool work, but (with regret) did not complete the open water dives.  She still dives though, going on what are called resort dives - diving no deeper than 40' with a guide, while certified divers can go to 100'.  Her husband is a fireman, and he is SCUBA certified as an advanced, rescue diver (in black water, as rivers and lakes at home are known).
Me, younger daughter and fireman sil, older daughter, after a West Wall GCM shallow dive (to 60').
If you notice in these diving photos, I am still wearing the same swimsuit.  It still fits me and, admittedly, it's kind of a superstitious thing for me to wear it on dives. I must also admit that underwater diving is one of the scariest things I have ever accomplished, and after 15 years, I think I can finally say I am somewhat comfortable doing it.  Oh, the tales I could tell you of diving with my buddy, Mr. P., most of which have been equipment-related.  Even this year, we had some close calls to dangerous situations, but experience helped keep any panic at bay. Also, the staff at Red Sail are competent for any situation I've ever witnessed.

Of course, even if you don't scuba dive, there are several other activities you can do on island, such as snorkeling.  You can take an organized, catamaran sailing trip with Red Sail to Stingray City and snorkel with the resident stingrays, or just walk out and snorkel close to shore to hunt for cool shells and sea glass.
Sil with stingray, on Red Sail catamaran trip to Stingray City
Or, you can go parasailing for a chance to see the island from 500-600' above.
Parasailing at Grand Cayman
This year, my daughter and I tried standup paddleboarding (SUB) for the first time.
My daugher and I, getting a 5-minute briefing before attempting SUB
Off we went!  SUB was easy for us, even being our first time, and calm water helps!
You can also do the typical, touristy kinds of things while in Grand Cayman, like go to Hell, the tourist trap that boasts of lava rocks that supposedly resemble what we imagine Hell to be like. There's even a post office where you can send your loved ones letters and postcards from Hell.  Or, you can go to George Town, the port city, where all the cruise ships land and disembark for duty-free shopping.  A few years ago, we took my daughter and sil to George Town.  It was the year Prince William and Kate married, and the islanders were celebrating in their own style. :)

Hell at Grand Cayman
William and Kate Cutouts in George Town, Grand Cayman
There are plenty of places to relax and hang out at Grand Cayman, too. There are a few club houses along Seven Mile Beach, where you can sit in the sand, get in the water or go to the restaurant and/or bar. There are also many fine dining choices, although, over the years, we have trimmed that part of our budget by mostly dining in.
Signage at Royal Palms Beach Club, SMB, Grand Cayman
You can also do simply nothing at all, which is what vacation, or at least part of it, should be, relaxing....
Inactivity Director at Grand Cayman
...and enjoying a beautiful sunset.
Sunset at Grand Cayman, Seven Mile Beach
It's a magical place, Grand Cayman, and we have come to love the place like no other.  It can be expensive; however, we have learned many tricks for keeping the vacation within a reasonable budget, surprisingly comparable to what many people spend on the typical US beach vacation.  I will share our money-saving tips in an upcoming post that very well could have you planning your own trip to this beautiful island.
Casuarina trees on SMB, Grand Cayman
Flags at George Town, Grand Cayman
Bumper sticker 
I hope you've enjoyed this virtual trip to Grand Cayman. If there are any particular questions you'd like answered, I'll try to do that in my post on travel tips for Grand Cayman - just leave a comment here, or send me an email:  wv.panoply@gmail.com, and I'll do my best to answer them and include it in the post.

Sharing:
Dwellings' Amaze Me Monday
Sunday Showcase
BNOTP Met Monday
Coastal Charm's Show and Share
A Stroll Thru Life's Inspire Me
The Scoop
Ivy and Elephants What's It Wednesday
Savvy Southern's WOW
Dedicated House's Anything Blue Friday