Normally when we’ve been on vacation for a while we’re ready to head home once our time is coming to an end. Grand Cayman, to date, is the only exception to that rule. We would have loved to stay for a little longer (or a lot, as long as we had the funds to live like we were rock stars). Instead, we got up Friday morning and got our things together and ready to head home. We said goodbye to our hotel room and headed downstairs to tell our new friends goodbye for now.

Mel and Doreen

Unfortunately for us, the road home was going to be a far cry from the paradise we had wrapped ourselves up in for the past few days. The moment we stepped out of the cab at the Grand Cayman airport Spirit Airlines was there to greet us with 2+ hour waits in rooms with no air conditioning. The first wait was… again… to check our bags. Once we had that out of the way we breezed through security and headed to the plane.

Me escaping the airport

The Airplane

Then it was on to Ft. Lauderdale airport where we had left ourselves 2 and a half hours to catch our plane to Orlando (a Southwest plane, so we had to pick up our luggage and recheck it with the new airline) and from there we had 50 minutes to catch our plane to Birmingham. Spirit Airlines had another idea, however. After waiting in a customs line for over 2 hours we were in a panic to get our bags at the Spirit baggage claim and get all the way across the airport to the Southwest terminal. So we were sprinting through the airport and the parking garage to finally get to the Southwest counter and have the first associate demand that we stand in line (the line was one person long). Luckily, two other associates helped us get things in order and called down to hold the plane for us. We got on the plane with no food, no drink for the past few hours and sweating from having stood in 5 hours of lines with no air conditioning in the Grand Cayman and Florida heat… we got to the plane with 4 minutes to spare before takeoff.

On the plane, the flight attendant heard our story and showered us with peanuts and snack packs which was great because that was probably the only thing which kept Mel from having a blood sugar spike.

The rest of the trip was, as it should have been, a pleasure as Southwest saw us all the way home where landed right back into reality with paradise now nothing but a memory.

Written on August 10th, 2007 , Grand Cayman, Travel

Someone once said “All good things must come to an end…” and while I don’t really subscribe to that sentiment in this case it’s true.  Our last day in paradise (for now) has arrived and we have a decision to make.  Do we spend the day relaxing on the beach or do we spend the day running to see the remaining sites on the island we haven’t gotten to?  If you know Mel and I you know what our decision ended up being.  Boy… that sure is a nice beach.

We actually got up at a decent time this morning and had breakfast from Eat’s Cafe across the street from our hotel.  To think of it, we had breakfast either there, or from there, just about every morning.  It’s a great place to get pancakes or french toast.

Once we had eaten, we headed down to the beach to hang out, sit in chairs and snorkel one last time.

Me in the water

Mel on the beach

After we had our fill of the beach for a few hours, we headed up to the pool and decided to have lunch next to the pool.  I ordered a caesar  salad with chilled shrimp (yes, again) and Mel finally figured out the code of the lizards we had been attempting to photograph all week.  The little guys would run away at the first sight of a camera… unless you gave one of them a small piece of lettuce, apparently.  We just sat for a while and watched people order drinks from the pool bar.  It was a fitting end to our time on the hotel grounds.


The Pool Bar

To wrap up the day we met with the son of one of our new Caymanian friends.  He had very generously taken some time out of his day to come over to the hotel to hang out with us for a little while to tell us stories about the island and give us an idea of what it’s like to live in Grand Cayman.  We exchanged stories (and e-mail addresses) and plan to converse again at some point in future, hopefully soon and often.

Once we had bid our new friends a farewell we went back to our room and got cleaned up for dinner.  Tonight we decided to go back to our favorite place, which was Yoshi’s Sushi.  The day and night were great and we ended the night on a high note by hanging out at Yoshi’s with the locals until we were ready to go to sleep.


Written on August 9th, 2007 , Grand Cayman, Travel

The signs are everywhere, reminders to dumb tourists that in this country you drive on the left side of the road. Apparently, even with the signs, traffic to follow and the inability to make turns when on the wrong side of the road people still get it wrong. I can’t say that I’m surprised.

On Wednesday we decided it should be our day to see the island. Attractions such as Hell and the Turtle Farm were on out list of things we wanted to do with Cemetery Reef and Rum Point on the list of possibilities.

Again, our plans would be foiled early. Mel called in the morning to find out how much it would cost to get into the Turtle Farm. The reply was $50 each…

Instead we decided to rent a car and start knocking out some of the thing we wanted to see which didn’t cost a lot of money. So after talking to our (not so) friendly Avis representative to secure a Silver Jeep Wrangler we gathered our things to head north and take a trip to Hell.

Our Jeep

On our way to hell we passed a cemetery and came to a four way stop. Sensing that this was probably Cemetery Reef we decided to take a look. We turned at a gas station and went down a small side road which ran along the beach with homes on each side of it in order to backtrack to the cemetery we passed. As it turns out, the end of that street is blocked by an enormous house which was built to take up both sides of the road… as well as the road.

Cayman Private Road 1

Cayman Private Road 2

At the end of the street a man was watering some plants, so we pulled over and asked him for directions. After giving us directions on how to get to Cemetery Beach he had another idea. Why don’t we just park our car at his house and use his private beach to snorkel instead? These people are so unbelievably nice. So we parked at our new friend’s house and walked down to his private beach, putting our things next to a boat under a tree and heading out into the water about 300 yards north of Cemetery Reef for some snorkeling. We saw a LOT of fish and hovered over an endless amount of coral reef, then we headed closer to the shore and proceeded to collect the nearly unlimited amounts of sea glass mixed with the coral fragments that had gathered there.

North of Cemetery Reef

Once we had worn ourselves out we decided to hop back in our car, wave goodbye to our new friend and head to Hell.

We were only a few minutes drive from Hell and to be honest we almost missed it as we drove by. We expected a city of some sort (which now, looking back doesn’t make sense but we’re used to large land mass thinking) but instead found that Hell was actually a rock formation which looked like a large field of brimstone. We went in the store that was there and bought us a couple of bottled waters, to which the attendant responded, “Thanks a hell of a lot!” Then we headed out to see the attraction and take a couple of pictures.


Mel and I in Hell

Now we were left to decide what to do next, since the Turtle Farm was charging more than we wanted to pay and we were already tired from snorkeling at Cemetery Reef. We decided to drive to Rum Point, which happens to be the furthest point we could have chose to drive to. It was 3:00PM or so and we figured we would spend the rest of the day seeing the parts of the island we had never seen. So we set out with our trusty map and our “Drive on the left!” road signs to see if we could navigate the entire island.

On we drove, through East End and into Boddentown where we were somewhat caught off guard to see a sign advertising “Authentic Pirate Caves (and mini zoo)” for those interested. I mean… with that kind of advertisement how could we not stop? After taking a very fun… but very hot… look at baby hamsters, the largest hermit crab we’d ever seen, a tank full of sting rays who were eager to have their picture taken, the largest aloe plant ever (it’s in the background of the picture of a leaf) and the pirate caves we got back on the road.

Hermit Crab

Sting Rays

Huge Aloe (in the background)

Pirate Caves Yarrrrrr

Then we headed up the north side of the island where the serious divers hang out. We also noticed that there were some very serious vacation homes there as well… larger than anything we had seen elsewhere. We also found that some of the scenery, which included calm waters with lone rowboats littering the coast was some of the most serene island scenery we’d seen anywhere… including post cards.

Cayman House

Serene Scenery

Finally we reached Rum Point at around 5:15PM, 15 minutes after everything closed. We weren’t worried about it though, we were there to see the area and spend a little time in a hammock on the beach, not to participate in the touristy bits. At Rum Point we were really struck by how shallow the water is so far from the beach. 300 yards out and the water is still only a few feet deep. When we come back we’re definitely going to plan to spend a day snorkeling here near the end of the pier.

Mel and I in a hammock

Trees over the water

Rum Point Pier

Rum Point

Rum Point Hammock

After our time at Rum Point is was time to head back to the hotel and get cleaned up for dinner. We decided to hit up Legend’s bar, the third of three restaurants across the street from our hotel which are owned by the same person. Like the other two, this one was great and the environment was mostly made up of locals out for a drink after work.

Legend’s Bar

We finished up the night by spending some time hanging out in the hotel lobby listening to the really, really impressive piano music as played by George Davidson.

George Davidson

The Westin Lobby

Written on August 8th, 2007 , Grand Cayman, Travel

Eight years ago today Mel and I were smack dab in the middle of a dozen or so very excitable people as we finally got married and started our journey not only into life, but towards Grand Cayman, together.

We had originally planned to take a day trip to Rum Point on our anniversary. But like most of our other plans so far, they required some adjustment to be ideal. Instead, we decided to stay at the hotel and hang out on the beach for the day (something we hadn’t done yet). Armed with plenty of sleep yet again we headed down to the beach to see just how clear the water really was.

It didn’t take us long to take advantage of the beach-front cafe that Westin had provided. I had my second Caesar Salad with chilled shrimp of the trip (they’re SO good) and proceeded to hang out under an umbrella for the next couple of hours.


As the day began to turn into the evening and the sun started lowering itself into the Carribean Mel and I decided to have our first snorkeling adventure. Now I have been snorkeling before, but never in the Carribean and Mel… well Mel has never been. We quickly learned two things once we started swimming around: A) The floating border around the water 30 or so yards off the beach is NOT a barrier and; B) Sting Rays are absolutely not shy.

Our first time out we saw a small Sting Ray, several scurrying crabs and a larger ray just before we headed in. Needless to say, I think we’re hooked on snorkeling in the future and possibly scuba diving.

For dinner we had gotten a recommendation from one of our new Caymanian friends that the “Grand Old House” provided great anniversary dinners as well as an authentic and traditionally decorated Caymanian atmosphere. So with reservations in hand we had the hotel hail us a cab (where we met another new friend) and we headed south of Georgetown for dinner on the ocean.

Anniversary Dinner

Anniversary Desert

Dinner was great, albeit a bit pricey for what we got. The environment was wonderful and the staff were outstanding. The most interesting event of the evening, however, was the feeding of the fish that apparently occurs nightly at the restaurant. We saw Tarpon, a Nurse Shark and even (briefly) a Moray Eel.

Grand Old House Feeding Frenzy

Written on August 7th, 2007 , Grand Cayman, Travel

We decided to finally pry ourselves out of bed for Monday and take a trip to Grand Cayman’s only city, Georgetown. It was Georgetown that we originally saw eight years ago on our honeymoon cruise which made us want to return. So here we are, eight years later, anxious to see what has changed.

Instead of taking a cab to Georgetown we decided to take the bus which costs about 1/4 as much. After waiting in the unbelievably hot sun for 15 minutes or so our bus finally arrived and we were off for a day of shopping and seeing the town.

Once we arrived in Georgetown we began to wander around. Our intention was to find somewhere to eat. The first restaurant we thought about was an Italian place called Casanova’s that our new friends at the hotel had recommended. Mel didn’t feel like Italian, so we set off to see what else we could find. An hour later… after walking in the 100+ degree heat we asked directions from a DHL driver in a strip mall which was definitely not meant for tourists. Don’t get me wrong, it was nice, but we were definitely outside of the tourist area and in someone’s neighborhood at this point. The driver directed us to go back from whence we came.

After a second stop for directions we finally wandered into… of all places… Casanova’s. I’ve been married to Mel for eight years now and we were together for two prior to that. I’ve never seen her sweat so much. We were seated in a nice, air conditioned restaurant full of nothing but locals on their lunch breaks. After 10 minutes of us taking turns going to the restroom to wash up we were finally ready to give the less than happy waiter our order.

Once we finally cooled down and started looking around we noticed something really cool, the Carnival Cruise Lines ship, the Imagination was in port. The significance of this is that is the exact ship we had arrived on in Georgetown eight years earlier!

The Imagination

After snapping a few pictures and enjoying our (very, very, very good) lunch we decided to head back out into Georgetown armed with the knowledge that you don’t stray far from the main road.

Georgetown is a very interesting place. It’s the only place on the island we found where things feel less than 100% laid back. There is a mix of locals in business suits carrying out their daily tasks, locals who are casually shopping, tourists who are in from the resorts and tourists who are in from the docked ships. Each different group is very easily identifiable by their stress level and it makes for an odd mix.

Earlier this morning we heard some locals arguing about how many ships were docked today. The argument (the first we had heard in the islands) seemed odd to us until we got to Georgetown. There were three ships docked at the time and the place was shoulder to shoulder no matter where you went. Then… suddenly at 4:00PM the town cleared out (the ships all left). It was like everyone disappeared and we had the place to ourselves. So we took advantage and hit nearly every store we could find. We bought several souvenirs and had a blast wandering the town (once we learned our way around).



Georgetown’s Main Street


Georgetown Industrial Docks

Once we decided to head back to the hotel it was, coincidentally, quitting time for the locals working in Georgetown. Our bus trip back included many of the locals who were headed home after a hard day’s work and it make for a much more colorful and enjoyable trip.

We finally arrived back at our hotel, got cleaned up and headed out for dinner at Yoshi’s Sushi Bar across the street from the Westin. We were absolutely not disappointed in this choice of restaurant and even made a new friend while there. The sushi menu is huge and there are some really interesting items on it. If you ever find yourself here however, you absolutely must order an H6. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.

Written on August 6th, 2007 , Grand Cayman, Travel

I’ve never been to any other islands in the Carribean, so I can’t speak to whether they are as laid back as Grand Cayman.  But I can definitely tell you that Grand Cayman forces you to relax whether you want to or not (which was precisely why we came here).

In our case, we were more than willing to comply.  Luckily for us, our first full day on the island was a Sunday.  We learned from our new friend (a local who works in one of the shops in the Westin) that on Sunday everything shuts down and locals all use the day to relax with family.  With that in mind we planned to spend the entire day ordering room service, watching television and relaxing around the hotel.  You know… when in Rome and all that.

Even the best laid out plans sometimes fail… but our plans turned into sleep, sleep and more sleep unexpectedly when we didn’t wake up until 1:00PM.  As it turns out, Westin puts a lot of time and effort into their sleep accommodations.  The room was pitch black dark, the bed was absolutely the most comfortable I had ever been in and the white noise that was generated drowned out enough of the other noises that we had 14 or so hours of undisturbed sleep.  I guess we needed it!

Once we finally started waking up, room service was prompt and absolutely delicious… both for “lunch” and dinner.

Written on August 5th, 2007 , Grand Cayman, Travel

Our flight in was nice enough, although we would warn anyone who flies with Spirit Airlines that in addition to your ticket you will be charged for each bag you check ($10 each in our case) as well as for any refreshments you would like to partake in during the flight.

I would, however, venture to say that no matter how questionable your experience had been throughout your adventure, once you step onto the runway in Grand Cayman the world is instantly a better place. We were greeted by live music and a well organized immigration line. Passports in hand we marched through the 20 minute immigration line, under the portrait of the Queen and into paradise. The officer who checked us for imported items asked us “Do you have anything you plan to leave in Grand Cayman… other than stress?” We knew we were in a different world at that point.

Grand Cayman Airport

Cabs in Grand Cayman are strictly regulated on price. Because of the small size of the area covered, the government dictates cab fare from one point to another. While expensive ($20 for a 10 minute trip) they are consistently friendly and helpful. Also worth noting (we learned from a local) is that you should check before you hop in a car because sometimes locals will pose as cabs to make a few extra bucks… and while there’s little to no danger in taking one of their offers for transportation you don’t know how much you’ll end up paying for it.

We grabbed a cab and headed for our final destination, the Westin Casuarina Resort and Spa on 7 Mile Beach.

The Westin Driveway

The first impression you get of this resort is really, really nice.  You never open a door (besides your room door) for yourself and all of the staff were very, very friendly and quick to recognize you and recall conversations you had with them.  We wondered around the lobby for a bit because our room wasn’t scheduled to be ready until 3:00PM.

Once our room was ready, however, we were very happy with it.  The accommodations are nice but not overdone (exactly what we wanted for a relaxing vacation).  We opted for the more expensive “Ocean View” room so we could look off our balcony at the beach below and we were very happy with that decision.  It’s time to start getting some of that hard-earned relaxation in!

Westin Balcony View

Written on August 4th, 2007 , Grand Cayman, Travel

I’m going to be somewhat careful with this post, mostly because I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea about how I feel about Spirit Airlines.  In that light I’m going to start by saying something positive about them.

Boy, Spirit Airlines sure does a lot of business.

We arrived at Ft. Lauderdale airport two and a half hours before our flight.  Honestly, we didn’t do too much research into how long the lines would be so to that end I guess we’re at fault.  But even so, this situation seems a bit crazy to us.

It’s important to note before I continue that Spirit Airlines has taken over an entire terminal at this particular airport.  So there were ten or so available associates who were checking bags and handing out boarding passes.   Even so, the line for checking in went through five levels of serpentine lines (the little ribbons that make you go from one end of the room to the other in a long line) and then out the door and about a hundred yards down the sidewalk.

After all was said and done we were in line for about 2 hours in an area with no air conditioning… nowhere to sit… no sort of refreshments.  Needless to say, we weren’t impressed with this aspect of Spirit Airlines.  After waiting that long in line we were concerned about getting through security, but things actually turned out fine there and we had just a couple of minutes to grab something to eat and we were ushered onto our plane.  But who cares about the rush, we’re flying to the islands!

Written on August 4th, 2007 , Grand Cayman, Travel

I have plenty of time to write this entry. You see, our flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Grand Cayman leaves the airport at 10:40AM and we have planned to be at the airport two hours early to make sure we get through security on time. Last night I set the alarm clock for 6:30AM to make sure we were able to get up, get ready and have breakfast before heading out.

Sure enough, 6:30AM rolls around and the unwelcome blare of country music prompts me to not only wake up… but wake up with an intent to hurt something. Ah well, at least the alarm clock did its job. So we roll out of bed, shower and get ready to head to the front desk where we have arranged for a shuttle bus to take us to the airport at 8:00AM. Nothing can stop us now, we’re just a few short hours from Grand Cayman.

We grab our bags and head to the front desk with 10 minutes to spare. Things are going swimmingly and the Ramada was even nice enough to provide us with a current newspaper to read during the flight.

Mel got to the front desk first and this is what I heard as I finished the last several steps to the lobby.

Mel: “We have scheduled a shuttle bus to take us to the airport, we’d like to check out and get on that bus, please.”

Hotel Employee: “Excellent, the shuttle bus for 7:00?”

Mel: “No, the shuttle bus for 8:00.”

Hotel Employee: “Ah… then… you have an hour and fifteen minutes to wait until that bus departs.”

Me: “Er… What time is it?”

Hotel Employee: “It’s 6:45AM.”

Much to the delight of the 3 hotel employees standing around it dawned on Mel and I that someone had set our alarm clock ahead an hour. I’m not sure what areas of Earth are an hour ahead of EST, but I no longer like those areas. Mel and I were left with the decision to hang out in the hotel lobby and watch the news or to go ahead to the airport and wait there. “Who needs 3 hours at the airport to catch a plane?” we thought as we sunk into the very, very comfortable Ramada lobby couch.

Ramada at Sunrise

Written on August 4th, 2007 , Grand Cayman, Travel

It’s time to begin our much-needed eighth anniversary vacation to Grand Cayman. Work, of course, pushed me right up until departure time with some production issues. But those were handed off to other people and we made a beeline for the airport to catch our flight to Orlando; then on to Ft. Lauderdale, where we are now and plan to stay for the night in the airport Ramada.

On our trip to Orlando we met a delightful 17 year old girl who was flying home from Birmingham. Of course, as is standard when traveling with Mel, we knew many, many details about her life and history before the 2 hour flight was over.

The flight from Orlando to Ft. Lauderdale was less interesting until the end, when I began to notice a lightning storm off in the distances. Watching the lighting strike towards the sky from the clouds kept me awake and interested over the lull of the engine 20 feet from my head. Then, the pilot turned and flew directly into the storm I had been watching. Of course, that made for some fun turbulence and some startled looks from passengers but all in all the flight was nice and we found Ft. Lauderdale airport nice.

A shuttle bus from the Ramada picked us (and a family of 20 or so) up at the airport and delivered us safely to our destination. They did… however… break our borrowed luggage. I guess we can mark up unexpected trip expense number one to the over eager bus driver with a penchant for throwing bags into an empty storage unit. If there’s ever a luggage throwing event in the Olympics, this guy is a gimme for a gold medal.

Written on August 3rd, 2007 , Grand Cayman, Travel

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