MITSUGIRLYS JEWEL OF A CRUISE review and pictorial
Day 5: Grand Cayman
So here we are. It's already Thursday and where is my time going on this cruise? It started out slow and it's going by so quickly now. Sigh
Today we are in Grand Cayman and I have been looking forward to this for a long time now. Last time we were here was last year in March and the Pearl. We did not have the greatest experience (you are welcome to read my review in my signature for a complete detail).
So just a short review of last time. We booked the Stingray sandbar, snorkeling and Rum Point with Nativeways. We received several emails stating that their time in Cayman was the same as the ship time. We met, they left without us. They put us on another tour (which I believe to be a ship sponsored tour). They, IMO, were reckless, impersonal, and in a way put our daughters life in danger. It was one mess up after another. After posting my review on TA, someone on my thread came back to inform me that Nativeway said they would give us a complimentary excursion next time I was there. Well...this trip would be that time to get it right.
Just to make sure of this "time" issue (like before), we checked and double checked with the front desk the time of the ship versus the time at Grand Cayman and were assured the ship was on the same time as the island. We were going to get this thing right this time!!!
Our wake up call came at 6am. This was our view from our balcony:
We seem to have a ship following us still. I'm pretty sure it was the Carnival Sunshine.
It was a race to get to the anchor area. I believe we won.
Then we were eating at the long, no place to sit, buffet for breakfast by 6:45am. HA, I was way ahead of schedule this time. No way I was missing this excursion.
No worries, we received this:
The ma'ams and our Epic cruise buddy had decided to join us for this day adventure and we were excited to all be together.
Now the night before, we had planned on trying to meet up with the ma'ams and our Epic cruise buddy and the ma'ams thought they were getting their priority tendering by meeting in the Star Bar. I know ours said to meet in Le Bistro. I figured it shouldn't really make a difference and I was just going to go up there and meet with them so we could all go down together.
When we got to the Star Bar, there wasn't anyone in there, so we sat down for awhile and let our daughter entertain us for awhile.
After awhile, I told the hubby we should probably go down to Le Bistro and just go ahead and get on the tender. We would meet up with them once we got to the port. We were informed that the first tender had already left and it would be just a moment before another would be here.
The weird thing I found during this cruise, on the tender ports, I never did hear ANY announcements saying they were cleared and ready to start tendering. Could this be because they getting all the VIP people and the people with NCL excursions off before making an announcement? That's the only thing I could come up with.
As soon as we sat down, it was time to get back up and go to the tender. Here's where the Cigar Bar comes into play. This was their secret stairway to get down to the front of the line.
We got on the tender and sat down and waited and waited for 30 minutes before we ever even left. Well....looky who is getting on the tender now....the ma'ams and Mrs Epic friend. See we met up after all.
We docked at the south dock (which is opposite of where we docked last time). We looked around and didn't see anyone with the Nativeways tour sign but was told to wait around. After awhile, I stopped a lady on the sidewalk and she called Eldon (the owner) up and he said he would be right there. He walked over, checked everyone in and told us to meet in the gazebo over on the north dock at 9:15. We just hung out for awhile waiting there at the port. Another member of our roll call showed up and introduced themselves. This was pretty cool that we were all roll call members. (Well, we did end up with 2 other people on the excursion, but that was it). So a total of ONLY 12 PEOPLE!!! How awesome is that??? You talk about amazing to not be crowded on a boat and excellent service.
A few pictures I told while we were standing there.
So it was time to leave and we walked over to the parking lot down the street and around the corner from the port to get in the bus to take us to the boat dock.
We were informed that the authorities had shut down the sandbar today!!! The winds were too high and the waves too high and dangerous. However, the were hoping that it might die down later and maybe we could do our excursion in reverse. I was so bummed. We had wait over a year for this day and now mother nature did not want us to do it. We did hear this rumor prior to the company telling us about it. They had cancelled all of the ship sponsored tours to the sandbar and people were forced to make different plans. The vendors on the streets trying to get you to take tours also confirmed that the sandbar was closed. Sigh...I just can't win. :(
So Sharon made sure we understood that we might not make it to the sandbar and everyone agreed to do the tour anyhow and off we went with sad puppy dog faces but yet still hopeful.
Grand Cayman was decorated with Christmas things like all of the other ports we have visited during this time of year. I managed to snap a picture of a huge wreath hanging on a building. The other pictures did not turn out when you're moving too fast or on the wrong side of the bus. Why do I also pick the wrong side of the bus???
We arrived at the boat dock and was ready to board. It was just a moment before we were headed off...but not before we got our rum from Sharon for our rum punch.
As you can see by the palm trees, it was windy outside:
However, we were informed that we were going snorkeling first and then on to Rum Point. Now how the sandbar is closed because of the winds and waves but snorkeling isn't is beyond me.
Iguana hanging out in the sun on the wall. Headed out into the beautiful ocean now....ahhh. I swear Grand Cayman has the most beautiful water ever.
Let the Rum Punch start....and start....and start....
We didn't have a tightrope on the boat, so this was our stunt bar. Drinking + standing up and walking during going fast on a boat=Kim not experienced enough to try it. Remember...I'm the crutz around here.
This is called my blackmail picture. I will need this picture some day to scare off the boys when Sakari gets older. I have full intention on using it too!
I took this picture because I thought it was so neat to see how the water changes color depending on if you were under a cloud or not.
This is Mr Epic Friend...he's the quiet and shy looking type, but when you're not watching...look out. He does tricks!
I didn't realize that the reef they were taking us to was a marine national park in the middle of the ocean. It definitely wasn't where we were last time snorkeling (with the other company). It was neat to see signs in the water marking the marine park. I was thinking that I got a picture of one of them, but can't find it. This is us coming up to the park. There was another boat there that day snorkeling. We pretty much had the place (area) we were in to ourselves.
Ok a lot of pictures to share here of our snorkeling. Trust me, I really cut them down a lot and there's still a lot.
This is were we anchored and you could see the rocks and coral from above. The water was so pretty. Since it was kinda windy and the waves were going, they put out 2 ropes with a life perserver on the ends of them. They told us to stay within these ropes for safety. The waves were taking you out away from the boat and they didn't want us going too far and not be able to get back in. 1 rope was a little ways out there and the other was pretty far. I really don't think anyone adventured too far because of the waves. I have to admit...I think this is a WONDERFUL idea and all snorkeling tours should do something like this so you can tell how far you are getting out and it makes it really easy to just grab the rope and pull yourself back in after snorkeling. Super easy. Great idea Nativeway!!!
As soon as we got there...I was ready to go. I have my own snorkeling equipment and the only thing I didn't bring was my snorkel vest (since I knew they would have actual life vest for us). They told us to wear them around our waist to make it easier to put our faces in the water to snorkel. WOW, another great idea. Why hasn't anyone else ever told us this or had us do this? We've always had to wear them around our necks while it crawled up around our neck and made things difficult. Way to go Nativeway!! Another added plus.
So who do you think was the first to jump in?
Yep, that was me! I couldn't wait!!!
You could look off in the distance and see the waves crashing...on the waves. It looked pretty scary over that way, but it never reached us.
So as soon as we got in the water along came a stingray. WOW, we were going to get to swim with a stingray no matter what. They had a name for her (I don't remember what they named her), but I guess they all know her. I couldn't understand how you would be able to tell one from another.
But he jumped in and brought her up. I think she was as eager to meet us and we were to meet her.
Yep, that's me out there snorkeling toward her of course.
I was a little worried about the water being a bit choppy and letting Sakari go in the water. It really made you drift quickly away from the boat. But she was having an absolute fit at this point and the guide said to let her in and he would make sure she was safe and with him.
She couldn't wait to get to the stingray and squealed with excitement. That smile is just priceless.
So it was time to do a little snorkeling.
I just want to say...I have NO IDEA what was going on with my camera today during snorkeling. To me, most of the pictures came out horrid and I'm almost embarrassed to share some of them, but I'm throwing caution to the wind and doing it anyhow. I don't know if I forgot to turn it on the underwater setting, or it got on a different setting at different times. I do know that whenever I try to zoom in, I either zoom in too far and get half a fish body or it's too hard to focus and it ends up blurry. I should probably just stop zooming, but I always forget. With this being said...here's my mostly terrible with a few good pictures from snorkeling.
I was getting super worried about Sakari out in the ocean and the waves even though she was sticking right there at the boat and with the guide, she was also hanging onto the rope as well, but I was just worried. I made her get up on the boat with daddy to sit for awhile. She was not happy with me. She would sit as far on the edge of the boat that she could while trying to dip her toes in the water.
I seriously hate that this picture turned out so bad. There were fish everywhere with the stingray in the middle and would have made for a great picture had it focuses.
Maybe the sun went behind a cloud at the time that I snapped the picture or something...I'm not sure what was going on this time.
So that was our snorkeling adventure. It lasted maybe a little over an hour. They didn't leave until we were ready to leave. It did seem like a lot longer than that though. It was a great experience and we were so happy we actually got to swim with a few rays and hold one even though the sandbar was closed....we still got our stingray swim!!! :D
It was time to head to Rum Point. I had been looking forward to this because we didn't get to go there last time with the other company. I had seen pictures of the place that others had posted on here and it looked like a neat place to hang out at.
They started passing out menu's for everyone to order from. They took your order and called it into the restaurant at Rum Point and the food would be ready when we arrived.
I ordered the jerk pork sandwich. The guide said they were pretty big sandwiches. The hubby ordered chicken fingers and Sakari order a cheeseburger.
We pulled away from the reef...
Before you knew it, we were at Rum Point
When we arrived, there was another boat sitting at the dock. We kinda stopped for a moment and the other boat driver looked at us, put his boat in reverse and backed up to give us room. Our guide took one look at him and gave him the hand/arm swoope get outta here motion and the other boat put it in gear and left. I'm not sure what type of set up they have here or if Rum Point is owned by Nativeways or what agreed they may have. I know that people can go to Rum Point other ways than just using Nativeways...so I'm not sure what that was all about. ???
We docked and I did see a Private Dock sign, but this was the only picture I got and I wasn't close enough to see what it said.
Do you see this tricycle? Gosh I remember riding those in the Caribbean back in the 80's at NCL's private island, Great Stirrup Cay. It was about the only thing to do back then. I don't think I have seen one of those since back then.
Now I had seen someone else post pictures of a coconut on the table here, but I didn't get it. I mean I liked the picture, but thought they had put the coconut on there just to take a picture. Then when I got here, I noticed that coconuts were on every table. I did not realize until NOW after looking at the picture that the menu is attached to it! HAHA I'm a little slow at times, but who would have thought to look under the table?
I finally made it back to the table and of course our food was already there.
Now I have to say this isn't the sandwich I expected. It was like a full piece of pork chop or something put on bread. It had a lot of fat in it. I'm not a big meat eater to begin with and anything with fat will make me vomit. I don't like steak for this reason or anything that is too chewy. I tried a few bites of this and just couldn't stomach it. So I ate the fries and the bread. The guide ask me if everything was ok and I just told him I didn't like it because it was too fatty for me. It also supposed to have some type of mayo sauce, but this sauce was hot and I don't like hot sauces or anything spicy.
Since everyone was done eating, it was time for a little bit of swimming before it was time to leave. We knew our time was limited here to begin with and I at least wanted to get in the water.
Now getting into the water was a bit of a challenge. There were shells and rocks everywhere that kinda hurt your feet. But when challenged, we (Sakari and I) are up for the challenge and will win every time.
She learn to do her first handstand in the water here. She was so excited.
Here is our MUST Christmas Santa hat pose for this place.
There were some darker areas in the water and I needed to swim to them to see what they were. It was nothing but a little grass and not much of it, so no fish to be found here. Darn. But it was ok.
I NEED MY SUNGLASSES RIGHT NOW!!! HERE'S MR MITSUGIRLY. I'm thoroughly convinced that boy needed a little more time in the sun!!!
I got out and started wondering around again taking more pictures. Even though I was on vacation, I knew I was also still at work for my fine people of cruise critic who expected me to come back with pictures of a lifetime. So off to work I went before it was time to leave.
This is a shot that I was trying to show that the ships are off in a distance. I did not realize that you could see the ships from this place and I had never seen anyone mention it before.
Before we left, the guide came up to me and ask me if I wanted a sandwich to go since I didn't like mine. I told him it was ok and he insisted on me picking something else. I ordered a chicken wrap and he brought it to me before heading back to the boat. How nice that was of him to do.
So it was time to leave and getting Sakari out of the water was a challenge...as it always is. We threatened, we walked away, we went after her. It.was.terrible....double....period..... She is the worse. We told her that our boat was leaving and she was going to get left behind. She didn't care.
She pouted all the way down the dock and stayed way behind us and any time I turned around to check on her, she would moved to the side so I couldn't see her. It really scared me because the dock did not have any handrails on it. She was being very difficult and by the end of the dock she was having a temper tantrum and truth be known, I was too at this behavior. It gets old after awhile. It happens at every beach or pool. I tried grabbing her because she refused it get in the boat and she pulled from me several times and I ended up scratching her and then she was not only pissed but pouting and crying. Oh just great. I tried to explain to her that we were going to see more stingrays and I should know better by now that she has caught on to my bribery attempts as a way to get her to leave.
After struggling for awhile and finally getting her on the boat, we were off.
Off to the sandbar to "see" if it would be ok to visit with the rays. The guide said that he would go there and check out the water situation and test it out first to see if it was safe enough. If it was, we could possibly spend some time there. If not, we would head back early.
This is what we got out of Sakari the rest of the ride over to the sandbar
Here we are pulling up the sandbar. There were only 2 other boats there and they were in the water with the stingrays. This could turn out to be an even better day. We might just get to swim with the rays.
The guide jumped in and told us to come on. WOO HOO. We were swimming with the rays after all.
Immediately after we anchored, you could see the rays coming in and headed for our boat. They know when you pull in and they know food has arrived. It was amazing to see all of them coming in from every direction.
We all jumped in and they were everywhere. They are so huge and so beautiful and graceful.
The rays are very friendly and come right up to you. Sakari's frown turned upside down really fast that day. No more pouting
They spent a lot of time catering to Sakari (as you probably are all well aware that she gets catered too a lot by being the baby of the family and this was no exception). She insisted on wanting to hold the baby stingrays. Well, they were "babies" to her. But in reality, the very huge rays are the females and the small rays are the males. She didn't understand this concept and just decided they were babies...period. Now the males are not as friendly as the females. They do not normally like to be held. But they were bound and determined to make her happy by getting her a "baby" ray....and they did and she squeeled with excitement.
They say kissing a stingray gives you 7 years of good luck. I think she's pretty much stocked up on her luck at this point over the last 2 years of kissing stingrays.
I whip my tail back and forth, I whip my tail back and forth....
Now this was hiarious. They would lift the ray out of the water and they would spit at you.
I caught it on video of it spitting at Sakari and my husband on the boat (he had no idea what was coming) and then I got them to turn around and do it for my video.
I was so busy taking pictures and video that I almost forgot I didn't get to hold one yet. So now it was my turn.
I have no idea what everyone on the boat was looking at, but you notice Sakari is not paying attention to anything but the rays.
Sakari had to get back in. She couldn't get enough of them.
It was an awesome day and Nativeway made it awesome. We spent a lot of time here and this is a must do when in Cayman.
As much as we didn't want to leave, it was time to head back.
It was nothing but smiles after this. One super happy kid!
Now it was time for more Rum Punch to finish out the day. CHEERS!!!
She talked about today (and still is) for the rest of the time and she was just so excited. I had a small little heart to heart (at least what you can with a 5 year old) about how she should listen and I told her we were leaving the beach to have more fun. She said "I'm so excited and I love stingrays". So I think I may have reinstalled her trust in me that mom knows best.
We come along the channel to head back to the boat dock, but we went a different way this time. They took us to show us the VERY nice houses along the channel.
I thought this was a hotel being built...until they informed me it was someone's house...oh my
When we arrived at the boat dock, Sharon was there to greet us. I hugged her and thanked her for making this day possible.
Seriously, it was amazing!! I would highly recommend Nativeway for a personal experience to anyone. We NEVER felt rushed at anything we did. They gave us a much different experience than we had before with someone else. They catered to us, they told jokes, they gave information about Cayman, and educated on the stingrays. They went out of their way to make sure we had a great time. We were never once told "time to go" or felt like cattle being herded with a bunch of people like last time. They made sure we spent as much time with the rays as we wanted. They let us hold the rays by ourselves (unlike the other company) and plenty of opportunities for pictures. Nativeway is the best in my opinion. I can't imagine going with anyone else now.
Along our trip back to the port, I managed to capture a few pictures of the ships sitting out in the ocean.
When we got back to the parking lot and walked back to the port area, it was a mad house. The line was all the way down our dock side, wrapped down the sidewalk and past the other port dock. YIKES! We were in line by 3:16pm and they had told us to be back to the ship by 3:30pm. The lined moved along and it wasn't too bad since we seem to keep moving. It was just hot in the sun.
On the tender. It's a really short distance to the ship.
We watched people come back from the port.... from our balcony of course...
We had a cheese and cracker tray waiting for us in our room to enjoy while we watched the tenders come in.
Once again, we were late pulling out (but it doesn't really matter to me. We were back on the ship and could stay here forever).
When we got back to our room, the room was made up and all of the towel animals were in a pile along with Trixie. I have to say, this is the FIRST cruise they allowed us to keep all of our towel animals the entire cruise. Every other cruise, they would remove them each day and Sakari was sad.
We also had this waiting for us in our room:
So tonight was the night of the Latitudes wine & cheese gathering and I completely forgot about it. sad face!
However, this was different than the Captains party I missed on Monday night in the Haven (I believe this is the one the Ma'ams went to) and the reason I forgot is because we were at the Nick meet & greet for Spongebob. Plus they had it during a time that the kids club wasn't open, which I found strange.
I would have loved to see the Haven area in person since I probably will never get to do this on my own. Sigh. But, if you remember, this is the night I won in the casino, so I guess I won't complain tooooooo much.
When it was time to drop Sakari off at the kids club, we turned her over to them and we were off to see a show.
Tonight was the comedian show with Darrell Joyce. He was funny and we enjoyed it. He did the normal jokes about the ship, life as a single person, growing up and his life with his momma ruling the house and his dad being scared to speak up. All jokes we can and do relate to.
After the show, it was time to meet up for the VIP chocolate buffet. We were told to meet in front of the kids club and the area was getting crowded. So they ended up moving us down into the hallway that leads to the 3-5 yr old club...which is a long harrow hallway. This is where we stood and waited and waited...once again, they were late.
I won't go into too many details about our experience standing in line and the (sorry for the expression but it was the nicest words I could come up with) white trash huge family in front of us that had the worse vulgar ghetto mouths (including the children) that I've ever heard, that proceeded to rub in everyone's face how they were in the Haven and VIP and they should go in first...then wanted to know how ALL THESE OTHER PEOPLE FILLING THE HALLS had the same VIP access that they did because they knew there wasn't that many Haven's on the ship. They went on and on about it. They proceeded to talk about how they were going to run in and gobble up everything before anyone else had a chance to get to it because they deserved it and they were special. I believe one of the workers at the front of the line heard this and then decided to make an announcement. She let everyone know that this was the VIP line for special guest and the reason that we got to go first was because this was a PICTURE TAKING OPPORTUNITY. It was our opportunity to get in and take pictures of the displays before they let the rest of the crowd in at the other doors to eat the food. You talk about the disgusted looks on their faces and the smirky grin I had on mine...priceless.
When we were finally able to walk in, the workers were all lined up and singing and playing Christmas music.
I proceeded to walk around taking pictures of everything. The other family proceeded to pick up a couple of plates each, run by the thing they wanted to start eating and stand there until they staff said "go eat". Totally made me want to vomit....on them. Oops, did I say that out loud?
This display drove me NUTS!! It changed colors and blinked really fast. I can't tell you how many tries it took me to capture it with the lights on. Come on...no need to have someone go into a seizure with the blinking lights, just leave them on for those of US that want an actual picture.