Thursday, January 28, 2016

#1593 Grand Cayman

The next stop on our cruise was George Town, Grand Cayman. This is a port where the ship is anchored off-shore and we have to "tender" (take a small boat) to the dock.

When we got there of course it was very grey and stormy looking. An announcement was made that the harbor master didn't think it was safe to tender in to the dock. Were we going to be stuck on the ship all day with Grand Cayman just right there? About half an hour later, another announcement was made that arrangements had been made with a local tender provider and we could go ashore. Yay! Of course, the excursion that we had booked for the day - a sail and snorkel excursion - was cancelled, so once again, we played it by ear when we went into town.

Very quickly we were offered a chance for a boat ride out to Stingray City and a snorkel near the reef. I was a bit apprehensive, but MT really wanted to go, so I went along. The boat wasn't much to look at, but the motor was strong and it seemed like the captain knew what he was doing, so I relaxed and enjoyed the ride.

There was a young man, probably in his early 20s, sitting across from us talking to the couple he was sitting directly next to. I overheard him say that he was from Utah and that most people on his ship (Royal Caribbean) didn't know where Utah was. I butted in to tell him we were from Salt Lake City. He got kind of excited and pointed out the other young men on the boat. They were all from St. George, UT. They work for a sattelite company, selling satellite service door-to-door in St. George and their cruise was an incentive gift. More on those dudes later.

The big thing in Grand Cayman is Stingray City. It's basically a sandbar out in the sea where stingrays flock to be petted and fed by the tourists who go there. I expect that during a nice sunny day when there are cruise ships in port, there are probably hundreds of people at Stingray City at any given time. Because of the conditions and the excursion cancellations of the cruise ships, when we got there, our boat was the only group out there.

I did not get in the water - hello! stingrays! I don't get in with the fishes! - but I had a cool view of the group from the boat. (By the way, I was not the only person who did not get in the water.) What I saw was about 30 smiling people and a whole bunch of stingrays.

Most of the stingrays are in the middle of the people, but you can see a few on the outside of the group. MT, who doesn't usually like to touch sea creatures, couldn't help but touch the stingrays. He said they come right up to you and sort of climb on. There was one lady who was laughing and shrieking and I could see the stingray kind of giving her a hug. Those are some big fish!

Here's a couple that came near the boat.

We spent about 30 minutes at Stingray City, then everyone climbed back on the boat and we went out closer to the reef for some snorkeling. As I expected, MT was the first off the boat and the last back on the boat. I didn't get very good photos. The sky was so gray and the visibility of the water from the boat wasn't very good. Normally the Caribbean is very clear and the most beautiful blue color I know, but it was more greenish-blue that day. It was pretty in a different way.

The captain of the boat told people that they could jump in the water from the top of the boat, so the dudes from Utah were quite eager to do that. The first guy off the top was pretty drunk and kind of did a belly flop. Oops. He was gasping for air and his chest and belly were quite pink for awhile. He eventually tried it again. The second time he didn't push off the boat quite enough and nearly bashed his head on the boat as he attempted a somersault. I was actually surprised the captain allowed them to drink prior to the stingray and snorkeling time. Usually drinking is only allowed after the swimming is done. It was all a little unruly anyway.

Toward the end of the time at the snorkeling spot, the captain got a couple of conchs, removed the conch from the shell and fed it to the fish so the fishes would come to the boat. By then all the Utah dudes were done swimming and were crowded around the back of the boat to see the fish. They didn't do much snorkeling because of the jumping from the top of the boat.

One of the dudes did go to the bottom to get a conch, which he was very proud of. When the other dudes saw the conch, they all had to have one. Pretty quickly the boat had a dozen conchs. The captain helped them remove the conchs from the shells, so there were a lot of well-fed fish in the area that day.

If you don't know, here's what a cleaned up conch shell looks like:

Not my photo; I Googled it.
The shells do not look so pretty when they are straight from the bottom of the sea. Also, the snail-like creature inside the shell, the conch itself, is not pretty. Good thing I didn't actually see one before I ate the conch fritters in Key West. :)

I've been talking about the conditions and the fact that excursions from the ship were cancelled. Let me assure you that everything was fine with our outing. The sea was pretty calm. The temperature was in the 70s and it didn't rain. I didn't mind it at all and we weren't even on a catamaran which usually gives a smoother ride. I enjoyed the boat ride, actually. I took this photo as we were heading back to the shore. I like the contrast of the sky and the water and the wake of the boat.

off shore at Grand Cayman
When we got back to the pier, we walked around looking for the perfect t-shirt. Looking for the perfect t-shirt is MT's vacation quest. He did get a t-shirt. I got a magnet. I like to collect magnets from the places we go.

When we were done shopping, we got back on the tender to get back on the ship. The tenders were really nice boats. They held 250 people each making them the largest tenders I'd been on. They were nice and the ride was good. It only took about seven minutes maybe to get from the dock to the ship.

I took this photo of the ominous sky from the tender.

Looks like a storm is coming!
Here's a selfie of MT and I on the tender. I should have taken one on the little boat, but I didn't. It's ok, though, because I like this photo.

Finally, here is one more photo of the Reflection as the tender got closer to it.

When we got back on the ship, MT and I agreed that the day turned out better than we had expected. I don't know that I would necessarily go back to Grand Cayman - maybe MT feels differently because the snorkeling and diving there are supposed to be phenomenal - but I'm glad we went and actually got to go out on the water.

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