Caribbean Travel Roundup
Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor
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My wife and I returned a couple of weeks ago from a 9 day vacation in Bonaire and Curacao. Since I made extensive use of this forum (as well as the Scuba Forum) when planning our trip, I am taking the time to "give back" some information of possible use to others. Bonaire We spent 6 nights on Bonaire. For reasons I will not go into, half the stay was at the "exclusive" Harbour Village resort and the other half was at Sand Dollar Condominiums. Harbor Village is a traditional resort with absolutely beautiful grounds. This is quite a task in Bonaire, which doesn't naturally support much more than cactus and scrub. The rooms are "very expensive," especially for Bonaire, with the smallest rooms going for $275/night, including a nice buffet breakfast. The rooms were attractive, but short on drawer space and low on water pressure. There is a very attractive beach (man-made), sunfish and lasers available at no charge (if you dare sail one in the constant 20 - 30 mph wind), and a dive operation which I didn't use. Most people here are not divers (unlike most other places on Bonaire). Our week there were only 39 people in the entire resort. (There are a total of 72 rooms.) Apparently it is always dead. It was so dead it was weird. Sand Dollar is a large complex of condos in a "W" shape, on sparsely landscaped but pleasant enough grounds. The rooms are HUGE. We had a studio, which was at least twice the size of the Harbor Village room. Included was a full kitchen, complete with dishes, glassware, dishwasher, full refrigerator., TV and VCR, etc. We didn't cook, but the refrigerator was really appreciated. Our particular unit had a screened porch. Daily maid service is included. Sand Dollar revolves around its dive operation, which was very well run, and its restaurant - the Green Parrot. The staff was extremely helpful and accommodating (we needed help because ALM - the major air carrier - went on strike right after we arrived and we had a hard time arranging a way to get to Curacao for the second part of our vacation.) I can readily recommend Sand Dollar, both for the rooms and the services. In addition to frequenting the local KFC, a pizza stand (once each), and Subway (twice) we ate out a few times during our stay. We ate at Richard's, which was mentioned often on-line and had a pretty good meal in a really nice water-view location. Service was good, but the view was the star of the meal. The best meal we had on the island was at the Rendezvous. The food was imaginative and the portions were really huge. I have a big appetite and this was the only meal that I really had to struggle to finish. Of course, we ate at the Green Parrot (at Sand Dollar), which does have really good burgers and good service, but I thought it was a little overpriced, especially on some items. A really small side salad was $4, for example. Finally, I am a dedicated fan of Chinese food, and didn't really want to go 9 days without, so we also had a meal at China Garden, which many have said is the best such restaurant on Bonaire. Suffice it to say this was perhaps the worst Chinese meal I have ever had. Go to the Rendezvous or the Green Parrot again instead. As for the diving, well it really is superb. The variety of animal life is stunning, and while the visibility is diminished by the plankton (to perhaps 70') it also results in a great fish population. My wife doesn't dive but found the snorkeling terrific, especially at Playa Funchi. I won't dwell on the details, but my favorite dive site was Leonora's off of Klein Bonaire. One unusual aspect of the dives was the amount of freedom you had. Instead of everyone going together like a "cattle drive," they gave you the ground rules and then you and your buddy could basically go off at your own pace and profile. Bonaire is not much to look at above ground. Except for the park at the north end of the island, which we enjoyed, it's not worth much film. The salt ponds and Pink Beach in the south are worth a look while you are this far from home. Until we got to Curacao, however, we didn't really appreciate how much we enjoyed the relaxed pace and style of Bonaire. I think you could go out anywhere on the island in shorts (for dinner) and no matter where we got lost (it's pretty easy to screw up going through Kralendijk because of all the one-way streets) everyone was really helpful. Both times I needed gas at the self-serve Lisa Gas, someone pumped it for me. Also, when we asked a customer there about how to get to KFC, he put air in one of my tires - which was low (Budget Rental car) - and then had us follow him there. Also, we never felt uneasy about personal safety the whole time we were there. I was sorry to leave. Curacao We intended to spend 2-3/4 days in Curacao before we returned home, but we had so much trouble getting onto a flight (with ALM on strike) that we lost the 3/4 day in extra airport time, so we only had two full days and one evening. We stayed at the Princess Beach Hotel, which is a Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza hotel. It is very large, but otherwise I can't really fault it, although it doesn't have much personality. Our room was really large and functional with a great balcony, but it looked out in the wrong direction. We were in the Ambassador building, which is close to the Peter Hughes diving operation, which I used for a two tank dive the morning after we arrived. My brief experience there was similar to what I saw in Bonaire. I particularly liked Black Rock, which was similar to Leonora's in Bonaire in terms of fish and corral diversity. The dive operation was very well run, but used the cattle drive approach. As a result we turned around much sooner than I would have liked and therefore spent too much of the dive at 30 feet near the boat before surfacing. Otherwise I had no complaints. The hotel is a few hundred yards from the Seaquarium (which we didn't really have time to see) and a steak restaurant that many people recommended. However, when we checked into the hotel we asked about it and were told not to walk it at night because there had been "incidents." Although it was pretty close, we decided to take the advice and ate across the street at Villa Elizabeth, a seafood restaurant which also came highly recommended. To make a long story shorter, we had an absolutely fabulous meal there for $100 for two with a couple of glasses of wine each. Everything about the meal was first rate and the food was really special. This was without question the high point of our time on Curacao. We later got to the steak restaurant near the Seaquarium and it was really tragic. Second rate beef, not cooked as we requested, and with a wait staff that was more interested in talking to each other than serving us. Really bad! We also ate at the Indonesian Rystaffel restaurant and had the traditional meal. It was okay, but I guess Rystaffel is not by favorite cuisine. Still if you have never tried it......! Downtown (Punda) is filthy during the day. It is fun to watch the floating bridge open for a tanker, but that's about all there is. We had a car for one day, but couldn't really find much to do with it, other than get to restaurants without fear. We spent the final afternoon at Mambo Beach, next to the hotel; it was crowded but fun, especially toward the end of the day when the bands start playing at the bar. It's interesting. As you can tell, with the noteworthy exception of Villa Elizabeth (a solid "10"), we were not much impressed with Curacao. If we had it to do over again, we would have stayed on Bonaire. Live and learn. I hope these thoughts prove useful to someone out there.
We spent a week on Tortola the last part of Feb. and had a marvelous time. We flew in to St. Thomas and then took the ferry over to West End from Charlotte Amalie. After clearing customs, we took a taxi to Fort Recovery which was just about 5 minutes away. The accommodations were first rate - simply charming. Along with another couple, we stayed in a 2 bedroom, 2 bath beach house which was located on a small sandy beach looking over Sir Francis Drake Channel towards St. John. We had daily maid service & also breakfast of fresh baked goods, juice and coffee. The owner (Anita MacShane) and the manager (Pamelah Jacobson) were warm and amiable hosts going out of their way to make a stay pleasant After settling in, they called us a cab driver (Beulah) who took us into Sopher's Hole for dinner at Pussers. The island barbecue really got us in the Carib. mode along with ample rum punches. The following day we rented a car for the week and drove over to Cane Garden Bay. While laying on the beach, we sort of went to church as you could hear the local minister preaching across the way to his parishioners. The water at Cane Garden was somewhat green (algae) and the only place on the island it wasn't clear blue. However the beach was lovely & almost deserted. That same evening, we were served dinner in our villa compliments of our host and chef Brian which was romantic and quite delicious. The blackened snapper was superb as well as the pork chops and shrimp jumbalya served to the others. We also were treated to a snorkel trip (included in the price of the room) to Norman Island (snorkeled in caves) via the Fort Recovery power boat. The crossing was a bit rough due to the seas being choppy. Our captain then ferried us to the William B. Thornton (a sailing ship turned into a restaurant) which was a treat also. It was even more memorable when we were told that Teddy Kennedy had eaten there the day before. Then on to more snorkeling at the Indians. Brian (the captain) was very informative and made the day complete). Other restaurants we went to during the week were Spaghetti Junct. (in roadtown & the best Italian I ever had), Bomba's Shack (all you can eat on a plate for $6 and don't pass up Bomba's Punch - just one and no more), Pusser's Pub in Roadtown (on Thursday nights the beer is 5 cents a glass - for a quarter you can barely make it home), The Sugar Mill (restaurant owned by a couple who write for Bon Appetit Magazine - suberb and desserts to die for), and a Spanish restaurant in Roadtown that I have forgotten the name of which was also extremely nice. We liked all of the beaches even though some were hard to find because per usual nothing is marked. Elizabeth Beach was beautiful, wide and almost deserted and one of my favorites. But then again Smuggler's Beach is also quiet and beautiful. Long Beach is long of course, however the water is rougher here but still a great spot to just lie in the sun and look over towards Jost Van Dyke. By all means do go to the Top of the Mountain to Sky World and look out and around to all of the surrounding islands - quite a view. Also every day a ferry is available to take you to the surrounding islands and we did take it to Virgin Gorda to visit the Baths. Speedy's Ferry has a deal where you get your ferry trip plus taxi trip to the Bath's and back and also lunch at the Bath and Turtle - I think it was around $20 per person which was a real bargain. The Baths were quite crowded the day we were there due to several cruise ships being in port. Having been there once before I took the other path to another beach which also was inundated with lots of French folks. However we were able to find a small cave all to ourselves. At the entrance to the Baths is a rustic looking bar called The Mad Dog where we stopped for the best pina colada I have ever had. Much to our surprise, the English gentleman at the bar was the owner & he was quite entertaining - ended up buying one of his t-shirts - a must stop spot. Having been to many of the Carib. islands over the past 10 years, I must say that Tortola is in the top 3 favorites of mine. We had a super time and will definitely go back & that will be to Fort Recovery.
Ours was a family vacation. We had three young children (ages 12, 10, 5) that we wanted to show a good time to, as well as ourselves. The Airport We flew direct to Cancun from Minneapolis on Northwest Airlines. The fare was great, service was great, left on time, arrived early. On arrival at the airport we gathered up our bags and headed out. First stop is to present your declaration forms. Have your Passports and / or Birth Certificates ready. After you are processed, they will hand you a tourist card for each person. Put them in with your Passports / Birth Certificates because you will need to present them when you check in for departure after your vacation. Next stop, customs checkpoint. At the customs checkpoint, you press a button when you go through. This randomly gives a green or red light. Get a green and you keep going. Get a red and they search your bags. We got the green so pressed on. I had read about this in information from the forum, so I knew what was going on. After that, you are free to arrange transportation to the hotel. As you walk along, you will be greeted by some very friendly folks with **BIG** smiles. Could be your magnetic personality, or could be they want to sell you something. In our case it was the latter. A friendly wave and a smile is the password to keep on going. Airport to Hotel I failed to break the code on finding a cheap way from the airport to the hotel for my family. You arrange transportation at a counter inside ... then they give you a ticket, you go outside and find your wheels. Two ways to go that I discovered. 1. Suburban with other folks ($8 per person) 2. Taxi (fixed fee) For my family of 5, that meant $40 to get to the hotel in one of the suburbans ... yipes! I was able to go by taxi though for $27. Still not great. Taxis are much cheaper to go to the airport from hotel strip -- $13. If you figure out how to get to the hotel more reasonably, please let me know. BTW... $10 means 10 dollars U.S. n$10 means 10 pesos (or new pesos) The Map (You won't find this in Fodors) Here's my poor (very poor) etch-a-sketch map of the Cancun layout: ******************* ---------------- ...................* Isla De Mujeres ....................* ----(Island)---- .......DownTown......* Gulf of .......Cancun.........* Mexico ...................... ** (Calm Water) ........................ **************** Point Cancun ...................................... * ........ ...H.....* ........ ...O.....* ........ ...T.....*-Beach Palace ........ ...E.....* (bad beach) Caribbean ........ ...L.....* Sea ........ The .........*-Cancun Palace (Wave Action) ........ Bay ...S.....* (Great Beach) (Sandy Bottom) ........ ...T.....* ........ ...R.....*-Sun Palace ........ ...I.....* (Great Beach) ........ ...P.....* ........ .........* ........ ...........*-Club Med <-- Good Snorkeling ........ ..........**** Point Nizuc ........ ..........* ........ .......................... ...............* .......................... ...............* .......................... ...............*-Moon Palace South Hotel We stayed at the Cancun Palace, a 5 star hotel just about in the middle of hotel strip, and we were on an ALL INCLUSIVE plan. The hotel was very nice. The grounds are beautiful with 3 pools including a shallow children's pool, great beach (and that's *not* a given since the hurricane wiped some of the beaches at different hotels), outside dining areas, inside informal dining, water bars, heath club, massage, on-sight Aqua-World events, entertainment daily, pool tables, ping pong, lounge bar, tennis, and best of all for the kids ... a great separate miniature golf course attraction out front. I bet I played 20 games of golf with my boys (it was included in the all-inclusive package). The Cancun Palace is one of the "Palace" hotels in Cancun. Currently there are 4 total. The great part of this is that if you are staying at any Palace resort, you may use the facilities at any other Palace resort. You just check in at the front desk, then they give you the run of the place. This ended up being a much bigger benefit than I thought it would. Just about every report I read from the forum said that they recommended NOT using an all inclusive plan because of the abundance of great dining to be found in Cancun. I'm very glad that we did though. With kids, I feel that this is the way to go. First of all, it saved a bunch of money. In addition, we didn't have to get the kids ready to go out every night, and every meal. We ate when and what we wanted, and the food ranged from great, to good. In our hotel there were a bunch of different places to eat. The "normal" spot was a buffet which was generally very good. You can have just about anything you want for every meal. Eating at the same spot is boring though, and fortunately there were many choices on the all-inclusive plan. There is a really good "reservation required" Mexican restaurant in the Cancun Palace, Los Golondorinas (or something similar). We dressed up and ate there the first night. Other Palace hotels have different setups including a fancy Italian place, a steak restaurant etc. Under the All-Inclusive plan, everything is included (maybe that's where it gets the name?) no matter what Palace hotel you go to. One caution on the Cancun Palace ... we were there at the start of spring break and this is a *major* favorite hotel for the wild and crazy set. We enjoyed the ruckus, but I'd stay away if the spring breakers would get on your nerves. The Sun Palace or Moon Palace are calmer family places. (yawn) There was lots going on at and around the hotel. If you want to spend some bucks, there are pampered tours that will take you to do and see just about everything. Parasailing and waverunners are available right on the beach. The first day we were there however, we saw a rope break that was towing a husband and wife in a parachute. They came down pretty fast and drifted over and hit a new hotel under construction. There were steel bars jutting up and he got one in his side. She lost some toes, and sustained leg injuries. Needless to say we did not try the parasailing. Some things were a come-on. My 12 year old boy was excited about the "free" scuba lessons in the pool. Turned out that aqua-world gives you about 5 minutes free. If you want to continue the lesson, it's mucho dinero. The Buses It's easy to go anywhere on the hotel strip, and downtown on the buses. The bus stops are clearly marked, but they will stop anywhere if you wave (as long as it is a safe spot). Cost is 3 pesos per person, and they will give change if you need it. Children 5 and under are free. You can't get to the Moon Palace on the bus though, because it is way south and secluded. Cabs Cab fares are reasonable. Most hotels have the fares posted outside for all destinations, so you don't have to guess. About 40 pesos anywhere on the strip. DownTown Cancun - (Want to take a tour of some condos senior?) Downtown is the place to shop. Just jump on the bus pointed north and get off when you run out of big hotels. Bargaining is fun, and can be done with a smile between all. The best prices seem to come out just as you start to walk away. You will be constantly bugged by guys trying to get you to go on a time-share tour though. A polite no thanks will get you by. I already knew about the time-share deal from the forum ... guess what though ... we went on one! It all started with the dolphins. My wife saw the "swim with the dolphins" poster and made the mistake of commenting on how much fun that would be. Hoooo Boy, that was all that Manuel needed to hear. He darned near promised that Flipper himself would go home with us to Minnesota if we would just take a time-share tour and presentation. As it turned out, our time-share tour was one of the most enjoyable afternoons we had ... weird huh ... more on that in a sec ... Here's the deal we made with Manuel: We would get the following for $40 total for my family of 5: 1. Dolphin Express tour to Isla Mujeres 2. Snorkeling at Garafon Park on the island including Park Fees Snorkeling Equipment for the family 3. A boat stop at the dolphins My kids would get to swim with the dolphins GUARANTEED for an extra $20 per child. This was great because I had heard that you needed a reservation days in advance to do this. 4. Lunch buffet on the island 5. Boat stop at the city part of the island for sight-seeing and shopping 6. A fun boat ride around the bay on the way to the time-share hotel. 7. Sightseeing on the boat of the movie star homes... In return, we would take the time-share tour, and he would get paid. The boat tour to Isla De Mujeres would have cost us about $130 for the family on our own, and we wanted to go to the island, and the kids wanted to boat around the bay. So we did it. Manuel was lying of course, but we still had a really great time. Manuel handed us over to Senior Fernando for our tour. Mr. Fernando was an older gentleman who is really a professional magician, and entertains at various clubs in the evenings. In the day, he gives condo tours. What a genuinely nice person ... and incredibly interesting to talk to. We had a fantastic lunch with him, toured some condos on the bay side, then had some drinks at the bay waiting for our boat. Mr. Fernando entertained us with magic tricks, and even taught my boys a few card tricks. He then got us on the bow of the boat where we took an enjoyable ride to the Sunset Hotel. Took our tour there (and actually enjoyed it), then went to the boiler room for the high pressure sales pitch. It never came though. We received a low key presentation from a very nice gentleman, followed immediately by my "We'll think it over ... now where do we get those dolphin tickets". We took our dolphin boat trip the next day. As it turned out, the boys didn't get to swim with the dolphins (needed reservations don't ya know), but we did get to see the show, and it was great. Didn't go to Garafon Park ("Oh no senior, we take you somewhere mucho better!") but did snorkel on the outside reef. The snorkel gear was not included, so I had to rent it. So, Manuel was about 70% honest. Still, our tour with Senior Fernando was incredibly enjoyable, and we had a fun day on the dolphin express boat ... did the Macarana and all that. The snorkeling was a bust though. I had a 5 year old boy, and since they dump you off in about 15-20 meters of water, I spent all my time keeping close tabs on my youngster. I think if we had actually been taken to Garafon Park as promised, it would have been fun. Thanks to some forum information though, we found a great family snorkeling spot near point Nizuc on a different day. Snorkeling, Kids, Point Nizuc, Club Med After our snorkeling disappointment at Isla Mujeres, I dug out my forum notes and found that some folks had recommended the area in front of Club Med for snorkeling. This info was RIGHT ON THE MONEY. Point Nizuc is on the southern end of hotel strip, and is where Club Med is located. The Club Med folks are a little snooty, but as it turns out ... the beaches are all public. You just can't walk through any Club Med property to get to the beach. Since we were staying at the Cancun Palace, we took the bus down to the Sun Palace, very close to Club Med. I'm told that you can also get access to the beach at the Regina Westin no problem. Once you are on the beach, you just walk south to where you see the rock point sticking out. It was about a 15 minute walk down the beach from the Sun Palace. Right at the rocks and the beach is a series of steps. Just go up the steps, and then across the rocks and you'll find a calm protected, shallow reef bay that is perfect for kids to snorkel in. Some of the Club Med attendants may try to convince you that you can't go there, but they know that you really can. Just smile at them, point at the beach, and say "Public, Gracias" in a way that leaves no doubt that you know the beach is public. An outer reef protects this little area from wave action. Young kids can stand in waist deep water and "snorkel" if they want. Older ones (like me), can head out in calm waters, beautiful coral, colorful fish, etc. This was fantastic! Ashore, my boys were fascinated with the Iguanas that inhabit the rock area. After spending several hours here, we walked back to the Sun Palace where our Palace All-Inclusive wrist bands got us a great lunch by the pool, and a couple of Pina Colatas in the Jaccuzzi with the waterfall. I have to say that I really enjoyed having the run of several hotels in different locations. Our Overall Impression of Cancun Don't go looking for calm, laid back Mexico here. It is very enjoyable, and lots of fun, but this is Spanish-speaking Las Vegas on the beach. You have complete control though. Do nothing but relax by the pool and gaze at the aqua-blue ocean, or party it up until you collapse. For kids, it was a perfect mix of things they've never done, and just plain fun. The People Genuinely nice and friendly. If you know any Spanish (I do), try to use it. Your effort will be sincerely appreciated. I was able to find out all kinds of things by speaking Spanish that I wouldn't have known otherwise. They just don't expect a Minnesotan to know any Spanish. Exchange Rate The hotel rate was 7.5 new pesos per U.S. dollar. Downtown banks went as high as 7.9. Money At the recommendation of someone else on the forum, I took a wad of 1 dollar bills for tips. This was very handy to have. Most of our other funds were in $20 travelers checks. I recommend that you stick with $20's in your travelers checks. Bigger ones may give you trouble with some of the vendors downtown. We had no problems anywhere using $20 travelers checks. SunBurn No matter how cloudy it is, you're going to sunburn. In our case, we were whale-white Minnesotans, and we almost blew it the first day with our kids. Even though we used SPF 45 block, we didn't put it on enough after the kids went in the water. Don't believe the bottle. It's not waterproof. You gotta put more on every time they get wet. Use lots of sun block and wear hats. A bad sunburn in the first two days will absolutely ruin your vacation. Our boys got a little burned the first day, and we were being careful. Judicious use of hats and sunscreen prevented further problems. Tourista The water on Cancun is fine. I really think you can eat and drink with impunity in Cancun. After our trip to Isla Mujeres though, two of my boys got bad stomach cramps. We had come prepared with a medicine kit though, and were able to take care of it pretty quickly. If you can, try to get an advance prescription for bactrim from your doctor. Be careful about fruits and vegetables and water away from Cancun. I checked with the hotel, and a doctor was available 24 hours a day if we needed one. There is a hospital in downtown Cancun. Scorpions I don't know how prevalent they are, but my oldest boy discovered a rather large scorpion in our room one night. I killed it, and we never saw another one, but it changed the way we walked around that place at night. I'd check your shoes before putting them on. Things to Take (Here's my list of stuff and memory joggers:) Paperwork Hotel confirmation Airline Tickets Cancun Books and Maps Birth Certificates or Passports for everyone List of Phone Numbers Your Hotel Your Home Doctors Your Travel Agent Your Airline Money Cash (Including a bunch of 1 dollar bills) Travelers Checks Other Stuff hats sun tan lotion Sun Block reading books Some Bottled Drinking Water some big beach towels camera film extra camera battery plastic waterproof seal bags A large Waterproof bag for wet/moist things when coming home sun glasses Medicine Pepto Bismo Tablets Amonium AD Bactrim prescription aspirin / motrin Children's Tylenol bandaids basitrasin ace bandage + Sunburn Treatment Salve
(Ed Note: this file is Copyrighted by Geoff Mathews and is from The Caribbean Travel Forum of CompuServe on-line service. )
Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac & Little Cayman comprise The Cayman Islands. A British Crown Colony. LOCATION. The three islands are located in the Western Caribbean, 480 miles and about eighty jet flying minutes south of Miami. They were discovered by Columbus in 1503 and originally called "Las Tortugas" after the turtles that abounded. By 1530 the name had changed to 'Caymanus" and from this "The Cayman Islands" POPULATION. Combined population of the three islands is about 31,900 descended from the first British, Irish, Scottish and African settlers. About 50% are of mixed origin but you will find no racial bias. The capital George Town is located in Grand Cayman. CLIMATE. The average temperature year-round is 79F. Most of the rainfall occurs between May and October, usually raining for brief periods only. The sea temperature is constantly around 81F. TIME ZONE. Eastern Standard Time all year-round. CURRENCY. The Cayman Dollar fixed at US$1.00 = CI$0.80 cents is the official currency but the US$ is accepted everywhere. Major Credit Cards are widely accepted. Banking hours are 9 am-3 pm (Monday to Thursday) 9 am-4.30 pm on Fridays. ATM's are available at several major Banks. ADMISSION REQUIREMENTS. US citizens - A return (round-trip) ticket, passport or voter registration card with photo ID. Non-US citizens - Return ticket and passport. Some nationalities may require a visa. REGULATIONS. Spearguns are illegal. Littering is prohibited (CI$500 fine). VERY strict laws against the use, possession, or importation of illegal substances or controlled drugs including marijuana (ganga), for which large fines and prison terms are awarded. No selling, soliciting or time-share hawking on the beach or in public places. DRESS CODE. Ties not required, even in the most up-market restaurants. Jackets are usually worn. Cayman law prohibits any form of nudity including topless sun-bathing. Shirt, dresses or beach cover-ups required when you leave the beach and go to public places outside the resort. GOVERNMENT & ECONOMY. Administratively, the islands were associated with Jamaica under British crown rule until 1971. At that time, Jamaica decided to become independent but the Cayman Islands, which had been very much the junior partner in the alliance, seized the opportunity of cutting the links with Jamaica. Cayman decided to remain a British Crown Colony with an elected Government and an Administrator taking the title of Governor. For Cayman it was a wise decision. Since inception, the Cayman Government has been both stable and successful. It has developed the infrastructure, education and health services and particularly encouraged the growth of finance and tourism to enhance the tax-free economy. Communications, services and roads (drive on the left) are excellent. They now have the highest standard of living and the highest educational standards coupled with the lowest crime rate in the Caribbean. This favorable mix has created remarkably friendly and successful people - they are truly delightful. There is very little un-employment. Government policy is that all employment must be offered to Caymanians first. Jobs not taken up or where specialist skills or experience is required are filled by ex-pats -- mostly American, Canadian, British, Irish or other European. Unlike some other islands, there is no begging, higgling or aggressive canvassing. It is prohibited by law and actively policed! The locals are very polite - will even let you in to a busy traffic stream! By American or British standards the local lifestyle is laid back and unhurried. They are probably more religious than most. Nude or topless bathing is not allowed and there are no gambling casinos. There is very little prejudice - no one cares two hoots what colour or religion you are. You can walk the beach or the street - day or night without fear. You will probably be safer than you are at home! Boat building and rope making were local industries but these have declined. There has been some agricultural development but most food and other requirements are imported. The cost of living is about 20% higher than in the United States but on a par with the UK and much of Europe. Foreigners are permitted to buy and own land and property. The entire islands have been surveyed and divided into registered plots so title is easily established. There is no form of property tax other than a one-time- only initial 7.5% stamp duty. SERVICES. All three islands have main electricity, but with voids in some isolated places. Some water is collected in cisterns but the majority is made by desalination. It is sweet and safe to drink. In some areas electrical, telephone and cable services have been buried with no overhead power cables. The telephone service is efficient, mobile and Internet connection is available. Many local businesses now have internet E-Mail addresses. There are more fax machines on the island (per capita) than anywhere else in the world. A local TV station and two radio stations broadcast throughout the islands. World- wide reception is available by satellite and cable. The 'Cyanamid Compass' is the National Daily Newspaper and other US and UK newspapers are available. Domestic gas is available bottled or bulk. There is no house-to-house post (mail) delivery. Residents collect post from post offices and post boxes in George Town and other locations throughout the islands. At this writing (April '97) residences do not have house numbers although plans are afoot to number or name all properties to assist medical, fire and police services. TRANSPORTATION. Cruise ships regularly call at Grand Cayman. There is no permanent docking facility. Passengers are tendered to shore. Two shipping Companies regularly serve the island (with goods, not passengers), from Miami, Tampa, Jamaica, UK and elsewhere. Cayman Airways, American Airlines, British Airways and Northwest Airlines serve the islands internationally and Island Air operates inter-island services. PRINCIPLE ATTRACTIONS. Water Sports* - Diving, snorkeling and all water and beach activities are the main attraction in the islands. Cayman has no rivers and no industrial pollution so the turquoise waters are crystal clear, calm and protected. Underwater visibility can exceed 200 ft! There is an extraordinary abundance of marine life. Seven Mile Beach (actually 5.5 miles but who's counting) is the best beach in the Caribbean and seventh best in the world. There are dive sites, shallow dives, wall dives and wreck dives all round the islands, many of them on the Northern part of Seven Mile Beach. The Cayman Wall is famous among scuba divers and Stingray City where you swim with more than 30 giant stingrays has locations for snorkellers (you can stand on the bottom) or the best 12 ft dive in the world. For additional information request the 1997 Dive Guide from your nearest Cayman Islands Department of Tourism. (Telephone numbers at the end of this report.) Fishing* - Offshore fishing for Marlin, Dolphin (not Flipper!), Tuna, & Wahoo etc. Shore Fishing for Barracuda, Bonefish, Pompano and Tarpon. Reef Fishing for Grouper, Jack Crevalle and Snapper. Charter boats and guides are widely available. June is million dollar month - one of the world's premier deep sea fishing contests. The Cayman Islands Fishing Guide is available from the Departments of Tourism. Water Toys* - Sailboats - jetskiing - parasailing windsurfing etc. are available at all the major hotels. Atlantis Submarines* - day and night dives to 150 ft below the surface or RSL to 800 ft. Shopping* - George Town is a paradise for shoppers and a duty free port. Everything from fashion wear* to cosmetics, jewellery (including 'pieces of eight' and gold coins found in wrecks surrounding Cayman) and photographic equipment. Probably the cheapest place in the world to buy a Rolex Watch. The Turtle Farm* - The only Turtle Farm in the world. Golf* - two courses Britannia and Safehaven. Tennis* - All over. Flora and Fauna* - The Botanic Park is the place for Caymanian flora and fauna and the National Trust planned walks on the Mastic Trail on the Northside are for those who care about the environment. Hell* - a small village with a post office where you can send a card from Hell! Getting Around* - Cars, boats, bicycle, scooters and horses can be hired for sightseeing. Rum Point Ferry is available for connection from the Hyatt dock to Rum Point & Cayman Kai. Local Air To Other Islands* - Island Air will fly you to the sister islands of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. Cayman Brac has a new attraction for divers - a 330 ft Russian frigate sunk 100 ft from the shore on a sloping site from 30 to 80 ft down. The Brac (so called for a 140 ft bluff at one end full of mysterious caves is ideal for a quieter holiday for those who enjoy bird-watching, caving, cycling or hiking. Little Cayman is pure paradise. Less than 50 inhabitants - your very own 'Treasure Island'. Entertainment* - on the Brac and Little Cayman is limited. In Grand Cayman the centre of the action is Seven Mile Beach where various live musical groups perform in the hotels for dancing under the stars. There are night- clubs, a cinema and a theatre. Umpteen bars and a British pub or three. RESTAURANTS Over 150 in Grand Cayman ranging from fast-food to world class establishments with superb locations. Prices vary throughout the range. Top class restaurants are expensive but because there are very few all-inclusive hotels, prices generally are competitive - designed to attract in the first place and ensure repeat business. Among the top group are Chef Tell's Grand Old House, Hemmingways, The Wharf, Ottmars and the Lighthouse. Middle range restaurants are Cafe Tortuga*, The Edge, The Britannia, Captain Morgans Steakhouse, D.J's Cafe, The Blue Parrot and the Cracked Conch by the Sea. Budget restaurants are Wholesome Bakery, Island Taste and any of the pubs. Best value Breakfast in Cayman - all you can eat at the Holiday Inn. Best Brunch, with Champagne, on Sundays at the Garden Loggia Restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. ACCOMMODATION All Hotels, Condos, Villas and Guest House/Bed & Breakfasts are listed together with Watersport, Diving/Snorkelling and Fishing operators with current rates in the 1997 Rates & Facts Guide to the Cayman Islands which is available from your nearest Cayman Islands Department of Tourism. (Telephone numbers below) together with details of package tour operators. All-inclusive arrangements are available on Little Cayman and at one or two of the smaller hotels on Grand Cayman. Generally Cayman does not favour all-inclusives and most accommodations will encourage you to sample local restaurants & attractions away from the hotel. It is perfectly safe to do so. Your favourite Travel Agent will have current details. Cayman Department of Tourism Telephone Numbers. USA/Chicago - 847-678-6446 Fax 847-678-6675. Houston - 713-461-1317 Fax 713-461-7409 Los Angeles - 213-738-1968 Fax 213-738-1829 Miami - 305-2662300 Fax 305-267-2932 New York - 212-682-5582 Fax 212-9865123 Canada/Toronto 416-485-1550 Fax 416-485-7578 United Kingdom/London 0171-491-7771 Fax 0171-409-7773 Germany/Austria/Switzerland Frankfurt 069-60-320-94 Fax 069-62-92-64 Italy/Milan 02-4801-2068 Fax 02-4635-32 Spain/Barcelona 93-414-0210 Fax 93-201-8657 Japan/Tokyo 03-3546-1754 Fax 03-3545-8756 CAYMAN AIRWAYS US/Canada 1-800-G-CAYMAN In the UK & Europe 0171-491-7771. Details correct as of April, 1997.
We are back, physically only, I am still 40 ft under Eden Rock. The last 8 days in Grand Cayman were great. This was the first time it was very choppy all week (3-5 ft swells every day) it was kind of scary seeing 5-10 ft of beach disappear off our hotel on seven mile beach. Still it was warm and shore diving was good. NEW STUFF - Tech Divers, the new dive shop under the cracked conch next to turtle farm. Good bunch and the entry to the sea there gave us two great dives. To the right there was a mini wall and later a deeper wall (65-75 ft) nice easy dive and as I mentioned with the chop shore dives saved us. BATABANOO festival seemed a bit more laid back this year. The parade with bands and dancers and costumes was nice, but the festival and bands later were not the crazy jump up time we saw in years past, although i was told the street dance the night before was kickin. Barefoot Man only works Wed through Fri. now guess the thrill is gone, we saw him one night and he still is fun. There is a new market, Republix, on seven mile beach just after Cemetery Rock. It was great seeing as traffic into town seems to be getting heavier. ATM and full groceries are available there.(and by the way the only liquor store open until 10 pm is just down the road from there, next right bout 1/2 mile in) Speaking of Cemetery Rock, it wasn't snorkable with the chop, too shallow i guess. We visited Rum Point, drove out one day, very expensive, $22 for two frozen drinks and a beer, $45 jet ski 1/2 hr. Skip it. We did enjoy very much late lunch at the Point (the light house restaurant at the breakers). All in all it was great, the seas made it seem like a different island, but I can't wait till next year....
My wife and I just returned from two weeks in the Cayman Islands, our first time there. I found so much good information in this Forum's Messages and Library files before we went that I thought the least I could do is to contribute a file recounting our own experiences. This is our snapshot of the Caymans, filtered through a lens of what we like and what we've seen elsewhere. Your mileage may vary. Cost: Expensive, as everyone has said - that's not news. There are discounts and Happy Hours and the like (such as Big Daddy's on Fridays), so ask around. SCUBA divemasters, in particular, have of necessity mastered the art of living cheaply in one of the world's most expensive resorts. Don't expect to find bargains on things to take home, except perhaps perfume and the like. Avoid shopping downtown - even the airport shops are cheaper! There are more jewelry stores than gas stations, and they're hungry. Good news, though: no sales tax or VAT! U.S. $1.00 equals $.80 Cayman, or $1.00 Cayman = U.S. $1.25. It's an artifact of the times when the British Pound was fixed at U.S. $2.50; the Caymans, part of the British West Indies, simply split that ratio for their Dollar. Be sure you know in which Dollar a price is posted! Many tourist shops and resorts post prices in U.S. Dollars, but most others are in Cayman Dollars. Unless you see a sign, assume Cayman Dollars. Natives: Mostly friendly! Little of the racial tension or bias seen in some other islands. There's hardly any crime. A vaguely British air of casual propriety rules. Geography: Flat, and not very scenic onshore. The view offshore, however, combines breathtaking hues of turquoise and lavender water fading to midnight blue. Pockets of sandy beach ring the island between the predominant rocky ironshore, a form of ancient coral that can cut bare feet to ribbons. A barrier reef rings the islands, from 50 yards to a half-mile or more offshore. Weather: The last two weeks of March ran 80-84 degrees F during the day and 5- 10 degrees cooler at night. Humidity was almost always higher than that (my wife, Trish, adapted immediately; I took 3-4 showers a day!) The water temp. paralleled the air, typically 84 degrees F at the surface cooling to 78 degrees about 100 feet down. Gotchas: A 15% gratuity is added onto almost all hotel, restaurant, bar & service bills. Even so, charge slips often have the standard row for "Gratuity" - watch that you don't pay it twice! Drive on the left, the left, the left. Cars may be left- OR right- hand drive. Note: Passing is tough in a left- hand-drive car! Rental cars tend to the microscopic: Suzuki Alto, Opel Swing. Two of the former can pass in a single lane of traffic, they're that small! And prices are typically $40+/day for these - yikes!!! Try Coconut Car Rental or other off-brands for better prices. Your Gold Card rental car insurance may not be valid here - check before you leave home. GRAND CAYMAN ISLAND We spent 11 days here, staying at the Magnificent Dive Dump (809/949- 3787) just past the Turtle Farm. Jeff & Caryn Thurner run this set of five one- bedroom condos near their home, all on twelve acres of oceanfront. Each condo has a full bath, a King or two Double beds, kitchenette, a/c, TV, clock-radio, telephone, ceiling fan, skylight, small covered patio and a full-on view of the ocean. A few hammocks, but little shade. Friendly hosts, plenty of stories, and occasional bonfires! Air tanks available at cost ($3) and loaner weights are free. It's a great spot for shore dives with more nearby. The Dive Dump offers simple, basic, perhaps spartan accommodations in a natural setting, miles past the nightlife of Seven Mile Beach. A little ragged, but nothing some paint and TLC wouldn't fix. Our unit wasn't very clean when we arrived, but a word the first day fixed that and it was fine the rest of our stay. Be prepared, though, for cockroaches the size of your thumb wherever you stay. This is the tropics, and they grow `em big here. Our unit, number 5, was on the East end with extra windows (love that breeze), privacy and a view toward the beach 50 yards further along the shore. It ran $120/night per room (not per person) high season (less if you work for an airline), with no 15% gratuity unlike every other place we checked. Sunset House is almost as cheap, and has a pool and bar, but is noisier (their air compressor) and more crowded. We initially wished we'd gone there, but came to be glad we opted for the Dump. It's funky, but it became home! When you need a day lounging around a pool, just take your beach towel to the Holiday Inn or the Hyatt - the Dive Dump has colors that match theirs and you'll blend. ("Oh yeah, you blend.") One day a conch fisherman ran low on gas and beached his boat nearby, walked up and sold us a couple of shells for $6 each. We then traded Duke a few drinks for a conch appetizer! He cleaned two big conch steaks, then cut them into thin slices and marinated them in lime juice, pepper sauce and onion for a half- hour. Mmmmm, delicious. I hope he's remembered to come back for his shoes. SCUBA Diving: At Jeff's suggestion, I went with Aquanauts out of Morgan's Harbor, just a few miles from the Dive Dump. They're a relaxed bunch with a rattle-trap boat named "Grumpy", but fun to dive with. On a two-tank boat dive most outfits will have you stay with the divemaster(s) the first dive, then on the second dive you're on your own. It's quite casual - show your C-card, sign a waiver, and you're off. Liability laws must be much simpler in the Caymans; they're not nearly as nervous and mother-hennish as dive outfits in Hawaii. Snorkeling: Not much worth mentioning - we were both disappointed. We tried just off the Dive Dump, Cemetery Beach, Governor's House, Eden Rock, Smith's Cove (a nice spot regardless, with shade trees), Morritt's Tortuga Club and Rum Point. We found little to compare with St. John or north Maui (our other favorites) except for the reef north of Rum Point: swim North from the dock for a half-mile to the barrier reef and you can find healthy coral and plenty of fish. En route to the reef watch for conch inching along the sandy bottom 15-20 feet down - dive down and pick them up to see the gorgeous reddish-pink inside the shell! Just be sure to set them back down - it's a Marine Reserve. Stingray City: Yes, worth a trip. The stingrays do swim right around your legs, and feel like sandy Jello! We actually enjoyed the other two stops more: one on the barrier reef and one in the sound, both with great snorkeling. Avoid Stingray City Charters, though - a bad boat and a bad attitude. Others have enjoyed them, but our Three Hour Cruise wasn't one to recommend. SNUBA: I don't know what the `N' stands for. It's like SCUBA except there's no b.c. vest, and the tank follows on the surface in a little raft, tethered to your regulator by a 30' hose. SNUBA is a great way for snorkelers to get a feel for SCUBA, without the pressure or training. It's new to the Caymans, having migrated from Hawaii, and is currently offered only at Calico Jack's shop just north of downtown. The "dive" runs from the beach next to the shop out to a flattened wreck just offshore. Rum Point: We spent a day here, and nearly went back for a second. A gorgeous spot, sand and beach under the palm trees with plenty of lounges and chairs and hammocks. Good food and drinks and a beautiful view over the sound. Even the ferry ride was fun. Enter and park two driveways north of the Hyatt, just north of the miniature golf course. Restaurants: The Wharf: Great ambiance, good food, make reservations. Tarpon feeding at 9 PM (or whenever kids start throwing food in the water!) The Lighthouse: This is a ways East. Mixed reviews on food (I loved the Chicken Olivia, but the carrot cake was wooden.) Lantana: We only had dessert, but it was superb - they had FOUR kinds of Creme Brulee! My kind of Heaven. Benjamin's Roof: Excellent food. Look for 10% off dinner discount in local coupon books. Champion House: We tried the breakfast buffet for native fare. Steamed okra? Boiled bananas? Luckily the sauces were wonderful. Cracked Conch: One hit (catch of the day, Island Style - baked with onions and green & red peppers) and one we sent back (4 little over- cooked shrimp over Alfredo pasta.) Nice ambiance, though, and just a few doors down from the Dive Dump. This is a great place to come out of the water on a long along- shore dive from the Dump. Especially at night! Hyatt's Garden Loggia, breakfast only: To our surprise, reasonably priced (for the Caymans) and very good! A very creditable Eggs Benedict. Hyatt's Hemingway's: Our best Pina Colada, ever. The food was okay, the service, though. With almost one waitperson per guest, I still had to walk over and grab one so we could order. And we never dealt with any of them more than once! Very disorganized. Sit at the bar. Calico Jack's: A nice bar & cafe in a great location - all outside on the water, just north of downtown. LITTLE CAYMAN ISLAND After eleven days on Grand Cayman we flew to Little Cayman Island for our last three days. We wish we'd reversed the proportions! Little Cayman is also flat, and at least as expensive, but the diving and snorkeling are world-class! We stayed at the Southern Cross Club (800/899-2582 or 809/948-1099), an old fishing club turned resort: eight rooms in four duplexes, each nicely furnished and clean, facing the water over a wide beach. It offers lots of palms for shade, hammocks, privacy, kayaksCari borrow and explore nearby uninhabited Owens Island, a small pool, bar and dining room. There's a dock for the dedicated resort fishing and dive boats. No "electronics" of any sort in the rooms. Food was good to occasionally great (their chef was on holiday.) Cost ran $230/day, plus meals at $50/day/person. Very friendly staff. The only negative was the tap water, which had a strong sulfurous smell when we were there. There are at least a half-dozen options for accommodations on Little Cayman, but only one grocery store. Those resorts that include meals (such as the SCC and Pirate's Point) will usually take non-guests if there's space, and if you make reservations. You shouldn't need to rent a car, as your hosts should be willing to drop you somewhere for a day for a fee. We spent one afternoon at Point of Sand, a great beach on the Eastern tip of Little Cayman. Only fair snorkeling and little shade, though, so you may want to focus on Bloody Bay and Jackson's Bay. Both are just a couple of miles from most resorts - a fair walk or an easy bike ride. SCUBA Diving: Outta this world. Practically every dive (I did four here) was better than any of my previous dives. Grottoes, caves, and of course The Wall. Jackson's Bay Wall and Bloody Bay Wall are side by side; Jackson's offers more caves and fissures opening onto the wall, while Bloody Bay is simply stark: from a flat coral bottom in twelve to fifteen feet of water, the wall drops to 4000 feet as if cut by a knife. Turquoise blue to inky black in the width of a hand. With visibility approaching 100 feet, it's an amazing place to snorkel or to dive. Very healthy corals, sponges, and fish of all kinds. Turtles were abundant, and we came up from one dive amidst a drift of brown thimble jellies. This dive spot is rated number one in the Caribbean by Jacques Cousteau, and justly so. Women be warned: Terry, one of the SCC divemasters, is a character. If you don't like underwater dancing, just poke him with an urchin. He'll get the message. If you request it, the SCC dive boat can make the run to the Russian destroyer just sunk off Cayman Brac (as an artificial reef) for an extra $15. It's only 30 minutes further than the dive sites on the North side of Little Cayman. Note: Local word has it that a resort will open on the beach at Bloody Bay within the next two years. From there a 50-yard surface swim will put you over the wall! No boat needed. Will we go back? Probably not - there are so many more islands we haven't seen. If we did, we'd surely skip Grand Cayman and focus on Little Cayman. We hope this has been of some help - have a great trip!
We (4 adults) spent a week in Curacao, returning 3/8. Some comments, notes for future travelers: Curacao is a larger Bonaire; same desert type surroundings and cactus, but more green tree vegetation in most areas. Definitely a good island for history buffs-landhuis (loosely-plantation) houses restored, very obvious, impressive, Capital city great area-similar to Charlotte Amalie in STT, but cleaner...same number of tee shirt sales, though. Significant Dutch influence, since Cur is part of the Netherlands Antilles. I was surprised at large number of European tourists-we (US) were outnumbered by about 90%. Not a problem, though-everyone was very nice. We stayed at Kadushi Cliffs condo in Westpunt. Very secluded top notch facility. Friendly, courteous. Isolated, though-not much in Westpunt, 1 hour drive to "town". Snorkeled mostly. Tried Playa Kalki (good), Playa Marta ay Coral Cliff Resort (good to very good), Playa Lagun (good to very good), Knip Bay (very good), and BEST EVER at Cas Abao. Have to pay NA$5 (US$3)to get to beach, but good facilities including shade and above average beach restaurant, great beach, and the best living coral that I've ever seen along the eastern cliff edge. Fish of all types, coral of all colors, morays, drums, and on and on. We went there several times. Restaurants we tried-Jaanchies (Westpunt)-good iguana/goat/fish sampler plate, interesting waiter (Jaanchie); Playa Forti-good food but not very clean;Cliff House (@ Resort-OK;Oasis-very good local food, open Fri/Sat only, unorganized. Rented car from Budget-US$500 for 8 days...Toyota Camry. We WOULD go back-great island. Bonaire was slightly more convenient, Curacao has more to offer. Tossup.
Getting There: After getting up at 3:00AM, we left Cleveland on a cold, snowy, blustery morning. The plane had to be de-iced twice! What a change from the weather that was to come later in the day. Every flight we had was delayed at least two hours: out of Cleveland, changing planes in Atlanta, and changing planes again in Miami to the BWIA flight. After a brief stop in Antigua, we finally arrived at Point Salines airport in St. Georges, Grenada at about 9:15PM, about three hours later than scheduled. We cleared customs with no problems and got a taxi outside for $5 per person. This was my first experience with driving on the left side of the road, and it was unique to see cows and goats roaming on the roadside. We were quite relieved to finally arrive at our destination, the Flamboyant Hotel, in time to enjoy a drink at the bar before they closed at 10:00PM. We were also relieved that we brought only carry-on bags with us as the climb up to the room on a steep hillside was tiring, but definitely worth the view! Our only regret: we arrived too late to enjoy a dinner of Grenada cuisine which we had hoped to sample. Sunday - Grenada: After an enjoyable breakfast of fresh fruit and banana bread (surrounded by birds) and enjoying a great view of St. Georges harbor, we spent a beautiful morning at the beach. Flamboyant Hotel is located at the far south end of Grand Anse beach, so the view is great. Very few beach vendors were out because of it being Sunday, but I did manage to buy three spice necklaces from one guy for $17 (didn't know any better, so I don't know if that was a good price or not!) Our hotel room was very spacious with a kitchenette and a big shower (the last big, HOT shower we would enjoy for the week! Tee- hee!) We recommend the Flamboyant as the WJ price is not bad and the people are very friendly and laid-back. Everyone speaks English with a delightful Caribbean accent. We also got a quick lesson in "how to slow down" as it took forever to check out, although the desk clerk was very nice. Took a $10 taxi (again $5 per person) to the dock and dropped our bags at the ship. Our FIRST view of the Yankee Clipper, and she looked great! We had the cab take us over to the Nutmeg as we had heard that was the place to meet other WJammers before boarding; however, since it was only 1:30PM, (the Nutmeg was still closed until 2:00PM) we strolled around the Caranage. (Be advised: NOTHING is open on Sunday in downtown St. George's, so we advise going to Nutmeg no earlier than 2:00PM.) As soon as the taxi dropped us in front of Nutmeg, a guy approached us saying he "worked part-time for WJ" (yeah, right!) and wanted to give us a walking tour towards the old fort. We were suspicious, so we declined and went the other way. This guy continued to follow close behind us; although never really a problem, he was just sort of a nuisance. He finally left us and we saw him use the same approach with others. Finally, Nutmeg opened and we enjoyed a late lunch of flying fish and positively lethal rum punches! Oh yes!...we met a few of our fellow shipmates there, too! At 5:00PM, all of us headed for the. First Mate, Glenn, met us at the end of the ramp and Capt. John greeted us as we boarded. After setting up our on-board-charge-account with purser, Kim and purchasing our first set of "doubloons" for the bar, we checked out our cabin. We had a Captains cabin on the main deck forward which was slightly bigger than a regular cabin, but certainly not spacious. It would suit our needs just fine though! The a/c worked fine, had a larger lower bed and upper bunk, small refrigerator, and a shower that stayed on without having to push the button! The head is an all-in-one that includes a small corner sink, john, and shower. After a buffet dinner topside, there was a 3-piece Caribbean band for music and dancing into the evening. It was a great feeling to finally be aboard the ship which we had looked forward to for a long time! Monday - Grenada & Sailing: Open seating breakfast was from 7:30 to 8:30AM with Western omelets, hash browns, and cereal. Since it was ST. Patrick's Day, several of our shipmates were showing up with green shamrock stickers stuck on various places! After breakfast was a mandatory safety drill with life jackets on the top deck followed by our first "Story Time" where Capt. John discussed safety aboard ship, "decks can get slippery", "no sitting on the rail", and a stern warning against any illegal drugs on board! Purser-Kim talked of the various tours available in Grenada that morning, and we opted for the island tour. Got the launch back to shore and hopped in a van with about 8 other shipmates. Monday was a busy day in the downtown harbor area, so we headed through the traffic out to Amba Kaila Spice Shop, Annadale Falls, and Grand Etang Nat'l Park. Judy, part of a teachers group from Colorado, was our "interpreter" relaying to those of us in the back what the driver was saying up front. Good job, Judy! This tour was fun, but not enough time to see the park at Grand Etang. After the launch ride back to the ship, had a great buffet lunch with fresh snapper! Then we helped raise the sails to the tune of Amazing Grace! What a feeling!....we were finally jammin'! Several of us felt pretty bad for one of our shipmates, John from Ireland, whose luggage never showed up (until almost the last day of the cruise!) and his wallet blew off the back deck shortly after we set sail that first day. In a typical WJ fashion, he didn't seem overly upset about it and took it all in stride; we also got quite used to him showing up in the same clothes every day! The first day sailing was ever-SO relaxing. We headed north for a 14- hour sail to Bequia. Saw a school of about 30 dolphins off the starboard side. Grabbed a deckpad and laid back, staring up into the sails and blue sky while listening to some of my favorite music by Enya (Good taste, WJ!!) Swizzle time about 4:30PM and a great sunset! Dinner was lamb or flank steak. That first long sail "got" to several people as they complained of feeling sea-sick. I was just plain tired (probably from the effects of the Bonine I had taken earlier), so I left dinner early and slept in the cabin until my husband, Rick, returned to the cabin after midnight. It was lovely to be "rocked" to sleep while sailing. A few shipmates slept out on the top deck despite a light rain during the night. Tuesday - Bequia: The harbor at Admiralty Bay, Port Elizabeth on the island of Bequia is beautiful! Not a very populated island of only about 10,000 people, but a lot of private yachts anchored there. After breakfast of pancakes & sausage or cereal, Purser-Kim told us the various tours available during "Story Time": island tour, Moon Rock, or an all-day sail to Mustique where the "rich & famous" live. We chose to just take the launch to the town dock and roam the town for a bit. Port Elizabeth is a very pretty little town and, as usual, the natives were very "laid back" but also quite friendly. A young teen with a warm smile played "Auld Lang Syne" for me on the small steel drum he had for sale at one of the shops. Bequia was one of the first (and last!) "shopping" islands (the rest of the islands would be virtually unpopulated), so we naturally bought a few T-shirts and then took the launch back to the ship. At this time, since most of our shipmates were still gone elsewhere, we had the top deck virtually to ourselves, so we spent the time taking lots of pictures and even relaxing in the "widows net" on the front of the ship!. Try it!.....You'll like it! Buffet lunch topside consisted of crab salad (great!), curry chicken, shell mac'n'cheese, and wonderful chocolate chip cookies. During the afternoon, the launches ran every 1/2 hour to Princess Margaret Beach. Here was our first snorkeling of the trip...on the north end of the beach. The snorkeling here was only fair, but got much better later in the trip. At Bequia and all the islands later in the week, the ship takes the bar to the beach. So we used our doubloons at the beach bar and strolled the beach down to the cave walk at the south end. A great place to take pictures! Launch back to ship at 4:30PM. Capt. John told us early in the trip that Caribbean time is "ish" time, meaning nothing is precisely exact. That was fine with us! So at 5:30ish, we were treated to crab races on the top deck with 12 hermit crabs. Don't miss this! A lot of fun and a raucous time with a few bets (no luck - we lost!) Dinner aboard was either Garlic Shrimp or Duck a' la orange, but we chose to eat ashore at the Gingerbread. Wonderful candlelight dinner with a Caribbean quintet playing and singing while we ate. A real treat! Some of the crew and other shipmates were headed to a "Jump Up" later that evening at one of the bars, but we were pooped from "too much fun", so we caught the launch back to the ship, ready for bed. Some shipmates (who were mostly hung over the next morning) told us they had a great time at the "Jump Up". Sorry we missed it! Wednesday - Tobago Cays and Palm Island: YC set sail at 5:30AM. Bloody Marys and almond croissants were available early. I stuck with just coffee as the seas were bothering me this morning (i.e. brief bout of seasickness off the back deck). This morning was a "sailing class" with First Mate, Glenn, on the top deck discussing navigation, charting, etc. Very interesting and I learned some things! Since a large cruise ship appeared to be anchored at Mayreau, Capt. John headed us for Tobago Cays which is a "desert-type island that normally gets very little rain." After Story Time, the launches took us to the beach where a few T- shirt vendors strung their wares. Several of us took the skinny, sandy footpath to the far side of the island. The snorkeling here was ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS! - a large reef, lots of brain coral, numerous schools of fish, yellow needlefish, etc. Lunch on the beach consisted of sub-sandwiches (delicious!) and macaroni salad. Just as we were eating, a rain shower blew in, so we hauled all our stuff back to the other side of the island. Even huddling under the trees in the rain, we still had fun! We debated whether to stay on the island, but finally were convinced to take the last launch back to the ship where the crew was busy wiping down the whole deck. By the time everyone was back on ship, the rain had stopped. Everyone was still smiling even though we were totally soaked and it would take days for everything to dry out. Hopefully, Capt. John didn't mind too much that we all made the ship look sort of like a "Chinese junk" with wet towels and clothes strung everywhere to dry out! Time to set sail for a lovely afternoon cruise to Palm Island. Very calm waters now. Saw a Seabourne ship anchored off of Mayreau. Palm Island is a private island owned by John Caldwell and his family; he and WJ have had a close relationship for over 30 years. Tonight was a beach BBQ with chicken and ribs, but unfortunately I didn't enjoy it much as a young steward from the ship managed to dump a blueberry dessert all over my T-shirt and shorts. So I took the first launch back to the ship to change clothes and soak my clothes. After a short nap, we took the launch back to the beach to meet John Caldwell and had him sign his book "Desperate Voyage" which we bought for $20. Thursday - Palm Island and Mayreau: Slept in till 8:15AM as it was a rather cloudy morning, even though some shipmates had taken the 7:00AM "walk/jog/run" around Highway 90 on Palm Island. Breakfast was a buffet of West Indies food. After Story Time at 8:45, the launches again headed for the beach. We opted to just relax and read aboard ship, just what we needed this vacation for! After a 12:30ish buffet lunch topside, we set sail for Mayreau. Enjoyed some great snorkeling off the rocks on a reef at Mayreau; also a nice sandy beach where the sand was tan (not white!) Most shipmates we talked to agreed we would have preferred more time at Mayreau and less at Palm Island. Back on board for snacks and rum swizzles (I think Rick had a few too many!) Tonight was the B,L,T, &P party (with prizes for best costume!) so many came to the buffet dinner (beef, pork, and ham) in their costumes; some as Black-eyed Peas, a lion, togas, bed & pillow, but we really thought the best one was the girl dressed as a giant tampon. (And if you see Glenn, the first mate, ask him about his "unique" toga!) After dancing away the night topside under the stars and a bright moonlit night, some hardy souls (translate: Rick, First Mate-Glenn, and a few other guys) closed the saloon late into the night with a round of joke-telling. Strokie, the chef, had some great ones! Friday - Carriacou: Left anchor early. Breakfast was eggs, bacon, hash browns, and tasty sugar doughnuts! A beautiful sail this morning with bright blue skies, calm waters, and my favorite Enya music once again. Dropped anchor at Hillsborough, Carriacou, and after Story Time the launches again left for shore to the town. Irishman John's luggage finally arrived this morning! We toured the other cabins below deck with shipmates Jackie & Bob so we could compare them to ours; not a whole lot of difference, although ours was slightly bigger and a whole lot more convenient being on the main deck in case you needed something at the last minute. Jackie & Bob had 3rd-Mate-Julian chart our course on a map of the Grenadines they had purchased - a great souvenir! Lunch was buffet again - fried chicken and French fries. After a short time motoring to the other side of the island, we took the launches to Clipper Beach. Only two other people were there, and we must have scared them away after our launches arrived, so we had the whole beach entirely to ourselves from the Yankee Clipper! We were warned to be careful and avoid sitting under the manganeel trees which are poisonous. Some of our very favorite snorkeling was here at Carriacou. We were among the first into the water and delighted in being completely surrounded by a HUGE school of thousands of fish! The weather was absolutely beautiful, and it was here that we had the most beach time (about 3 1/2 hours) of any island. A great and beautiful place! We felt like we were "marooned" on our very own tropical isle! Back on board ship by 5:00PM. This was a melancholy moment as the last raising of the sails and hearing Amazing Grace for the last time. What a gorgeous sail into the sunset off the starboard side as we headed south again for Grenada! Tonight was the Captains dinner (e.g. clean T-shirt) with two seatings. Choices were either prime rib or Wahoo fish; we chose the fish, which was just great! Chief Steward, Kenny, treated us to a Caesar salad preparation, and then we all headed topside for bananas flambeau on the top deck. This was the night for LOTS of pictures in the saloon area with our shipmates and new-found friends. But not too late of a night since over 1/2 of us had to catch the early BWIA flight out the next morning. Saturday - Heading Home: After an early 4:15AM "knock-up" (translate: wake-up "call"), we hurried through a quick buffet breakfast to catch the taxis on the dock by 5:30AM. All or luggage was placed into the back of a pick-up truck, and those of us in the front taxi-van endured a careening adventure to the airport following the pick-up about 1-foot off his bumper. For a slow Caribbean island as is Grenada, why this driver had to drive like a New York cabby is beyond me! In any case, it was sad to have to leave the YC and we found ourselves very envious of those that had arranged to stay another week (two shipmates stayed aboard for another week on YC, another left for the next week aboard Flying Cloud, and several others were staying for a few days at the Flamboyant Hotel.) We'll know better next time!! Our Critique: Did we enjoy the Yankee Clipper? ABSOLUTELY!! Will we be back for another WJ cruise? WITHOUT A DOUBT!! What sold us on the Yankee Clipper was the great sailing she did and the fabulous snorkeling at obscure out-of-the beaten-path islands! The weather cooperated most of the time in being quite warm and sunny, despite the brief shower at Tobago Cays and a few drizzles at night for those attempting to sleep on the top deck (something we had hoped to try but never did!) The food aboard ship was fine, not gourmet and not dramatic, but good and certainly plenty of it! The accommodations took some getting used to, but you learn to live "within your means" (small cabin) and actually learned to NOT worry about not having a key to lock the cab of NOT having to dress up, forget about doing hair and make-up for an entire week (nobody cares what you look like!), and NOT having to wear shoes! If we have any negative comment at all, it's that we feel we spent too much time at Palm Island and didn't do justice to Mayreau. However, the ship is beautiful with all that wood, and Capt. John, First Mate Glenn, Julian, Kim, and the rest of the crew are all professional and very friendly! A word to the wise: 1) Remember to pack light! We had been warned, but we still packed too much even though we had only one carry-on a piece. 2) You are very near the equator in this region, so bring lots of sun block and/or be sure to have a good base tan. We are VERY MUCH looking forward to our next Windjammer cruise!!!
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