The next day, we made halt on Grand Cayman Island.
It is the largest of the three Cayman Islands with Georgetown being the capital. Approximately 54,000 people live on the Cayman Islands altogether with the majority inhabiting Grand Cayman. Hurricane Ivan rolled by the islands in 2004 with winds up to 290km/h, destroying over 80 percent of the islands buildings and infrastructures. Many people died during this massive tropical storm. Today, Grand Cayman is back to normal.
I had high expectations to this destination and even though there was tons of stuff to do there (i.e. the Cayman Turtle Farm, Stingray City or Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Garden), at the end of the day I was not as satisfied with my experience as I had been hoping for.
Georgetown is a shopper´s paradise if you are looking for all these high-end fashion and luxury brands. There is no sales tax and since the Cayman Islands are world renown as a bankers paradise (over 40 of the top 50 bank brands hold a licence!), you have all the big brands that you could possibly hope for. Personally found the prices to be not so convincing though.
Cruise ships generally anchor at Hog Sty Bay. To go ashore and get to back to the ship, a tender service is offered free of charge by the Cayman Islands. Georgetown is easily accessible by foot from the tender landing point (Grand Cayman port). Simply follow the waterfront promenade, Harbour Drive, to the right upon exiting. If you haven´t made any plans for excursions yet, the nearby Bayshore Mall offers fast high quality WiFi!
Living close to the Bavarian Alps and having months of grey and cold winter ahead, I was so looking forward to simply spend the day at the beach. While a visit to the island´s Stingray City also sounded tempting, after a while we agreed to first do a little window shopping downtown before taking the local bus from the bus depot up to the famous Seven Miles Beach.
The bus depot is only a short walk from the cruise terminal and riding the bus is the cheapest form of transportation on Grand Cayman. With only 2 Cayman Dollars per person/ride you can literally circle the whole island at once if you wanted to. The US-Dollar is also widely accepted, but I recommend to get some cash at any ATM machine and pay in the local currency. To the Euro, it is definitely the better exchange rate!
Just have in mind that people here drive on the left hand side (like in Britain), so whenever you get off at a stop and you would like to go back to the ship later on, take the bus stop on the other side of the road.
Seven Miles Beach is the island´s most well-known public beach. Buses and taxis all stop at the beaches´ “main entrance”. This is, in my opinion, the least attractive part of 7 Miles Beach as here you lie towel to towel like sardines in a conserve. I felt like I was stranded in an all-inclusive nightmare in the style of the Turkish Riviera or the touristy parts of the Balearic Islands. Loungers, umbrellas and any sort of watersports were available at extra cost and the constant noise of jet skis and screaming crowds ruined any impression of an elegant Caribbean hideaway that I had pictured Grand Cayman to be. Snorkeling also was a joke at this spot, so we left after a rather short bath here back into town.
The whole beach extends over five kilometres and is public at any spot. In order to keep you in the touristy spot, you will be told that the empty parts of the beach belong to private residences or hotels. This is NOT true! In order to get a more authentic Caribbean experience, make the effort and walk up the beach to the North. You will find your personal Caribbean getaway away from the masses for your ultimate bathing experience.
Seven Miles Beach has way more to offer than what I was able to discover while having just these few hours during the day.
But as all stories have two sides, if I hadn´t returned back to town as early as I did, I may not have found this cute and low-key little street restaurant in Georgetown for a crisp and refreshing beer along with a delicious ox tail soup. With over 200 restaurants, Grand Cayman is called the “Culinary capital of the Caribbean“.
Grand Cayman, I will come back for more. I started out on the wrong foot. Let´s make this right the next time…