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Trip Report FINAL Grand Cayman trip report ! June 25 - July 2 (disregard other posts)

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We are back from a great trip to Grand Cayman (June 25 through July 2). I am starting this as I sit in Charlotte airport waiting for our connecting flight back to Maryland. Stayed again at Villas of the Galleon. This was a 2nd trip for my husband and I. We got married on the beach in front of VOG in December 2003. Almost 5 years had passed since our last visit and we were anxious to see the island since the hurricane. We also celebrated hubby's 40th birthday on the trip. This time we took with us my husband's kids (Cerah, 12 and Cole, 9) and our 3 year old daughter, Ellie. Ellie has already has a few Caribbean trips under her belt so she is a seasoned traveler. I am embarrassed to admit how many photos I took but it is an obsession of mine. Plus with kids, it typically requires multiple shots to get one good photo. But as some of you have read, we had 2 camera was just that, a scare, but the other resulted in the loss of more than half of my photos. I have been heartsick which is why it has taken me a while to get this report up. that and the fact that I have been swamped at work since my return. After the malfunction of hubby'scamera (his Olympus Stylus underwater camera blacked out), we used my stepdaughter's for the last 4 days of the trip. She left it on the plane and no one was decent enough to return it. So I will post a link to some of the photos I do but it will be missing the one awesome sunset we had, the turtle farm, kayaking, and the amazing portraits of the kids I shot, among other things.

Anyway, more on the trip -

I love Owen Roberts Airport...looks like what the quintessential Caribbean airport should look like and the steel drum band that you hear as soon as your feet hit the tarmac really gets you in the island spirit. Customs was a breeze. We picked up our spiffy, new while Corolla at thrifty and were on our way to VOG. It took a very short time for my husband to get acclimated to driving on the left again since gets practice at least once a year at whichever island we are visiting. Ellie did assume responsibility for making sure he did not forget by periodically chirping "Stay left, Daddy."

We had a great oceanfront condo at VOG. It was on the 3rd floor, which sounded great when I booked, but from now on I will only book ground floor. So much more convenient, especially with the kids. The ground floor unit patios practically spilled onto the beach. This is what we had last time and wished I had done so this time. We were required to walk around to the back of the units and then up 3 flights of stairs. Not a big deal except with 3 kids, a trip back to room is a very frequent occurrence. Just personal preference. The landscaping is still beautiful though it is not as lush due to Ivan¡¦s wrath. The beach is still wide and beautiful. The kids barely dumped their stuff in their rooms when we first arrived before they suited up and were in the water. The Casuarina pines are slowly filling back in though they do look sparse compared to how we remembered them.

The beachfront at the Ritz is obscene. What used to be a beautiful view southward is now littered with beach chairs stacked almost on top of each other, buoys, swim ropes, assorted watercraft and one weird looking boat. We walked through the Ritz pool area and while it was nice, it didn't impress me. If I paid that much for a hotel room, I would be appalled at the beach scene. The Westin would have been more my style. I liked the pool area better and the beach was much less cluttered. The place I really liked was the Coral Stone Club next to the Ritz to the South. It had an awesome beach..super wide and flat all the way to the water. They had tiki huts on the beach, nice pool area and the complex overall was just appealing to me. Not cluttered at all. VOG is the same way...just enough beach chairs, no jet skis or water toys and no swim ropes. If you haven't already figured it out, I am a bit of a beach snob. All of my trips to the Caribbean are to those destinations which boast great beaches such as Anguilla and Turks and Caicos. Maybe it is because I am a more seasoned traveler or because I am just getting older but Seven Mile Beach, although beautiful, is getting too busy for my taste. And I know there are much less crowded areas of the island but that would mean giving up the nice beach just steps away.

We hit Foster's Food Fair when we arrived to stock up on provisions for the week - breakfast, lunch and snack food plus soda and juice to mix with our Tortuga rum. We also cooked a couple dinners in. feeding a family of 5 in Cayman is expensive!

A brief review of the restaurants where we dined:

Cocount Joe's (Thumbs up): I love this place but was disappointed to see that the bar swings were gone. Ellie entertained herself by watching the chickens and roosters who take up residence at the restaurant. We had the best service here of any restaurant..impeccable. The rice bowls never disappoint and the calamari is super tender. They also make a mean Bellini. This is a fun, casual, outdoor place with consistently good food.

Fisherman's Reef (Thumbs up) - We went here for the big 4-0 birthday dinner. I was torn between here and Calypso Grill. The food was very good and the setting nice though it was very windy the night we dined. We refuse to eat indoors for the most part when in the Caribbean. My Caribbean snapper (with mangoes and a banana liqueur sauce) was very good and Mark's West Indies Lobster was a hit as well. The restaurant was quite dead though and the crowded parking lot next door at Calypso made me second guess my choice. But we were pleased with our meal.

Aqua Beach (Thumbs down): We ended up here after a series of unfortunate events. Yoshi sushi was the intended restaurant this evening. Terrible service, very limited drink menu and average food.

Lone Star (Thumbs up): We decided to give this a whirl because my frugal self had learned that Kids eat Free on Tuesday sign. Plus I had read good reviews. Food was good - kids loved it. But lucky us got a waitress who had only been there 2 days and it took 30 minutes get to the correct amount on the bill. There was a super nice woman, however (owner or manager maybe) who came around to talk to us various times throughout our meal.

Next time I will definitely try Calypso Grill, Yoshi and Deckers's .I really liked the looks of Deckers.

Most days we ate breakfast on the balcony and took a walk along the beach. Several days we just stayed on the beach and went snorkeling at Governor's and Cemetery. Saw a sea turtle at cemetery which is always a highlight for me. In the evening we went to the beach to try to catch a sunset. Most evenings there wasn't much of one but we did get on nice one.

Visited Georgetown one morning to peruse the shops and to get the obligatory photo with Big Black D__k.

Stingray City: We tried Sotos this time and after a very bumpy start the trip turned out well. They said the would pick us up at 8:40. So we waited until 9 and still no van. I called and no answer. So we quick hopped into the Corolla and tried to find the place. The building marked Sotos was locked up tight and I was very frustrated at this point. After trying to find someone on the street to ask, we rode back by and thankfully saw someone emerge from the back. We were in the right place. They apologized for running so late and not picking us up. Crisis averted. I have no problem with "island time" but check in and take off was at a certain time and was worried we would miss the boat. The boat was nice, the crew great. Seas were kinda rough so we did Coral Gardens instead of the reef. Not too much to see. Stingrays were what I was looking forward too. I just love being in the water with them. They are so puppies. We fed them and held them. My 3 year old loved it.

Island Tour: This was a fun day. We started out by visiting Smith's Cove then just stopped at random spots along the way. Drove through some nice neighborhoods and look at the houses being built. Stopped to let an orange crab cross the road. Visted the blowholes, drove around the East End then stopped at Ivory kai in hopes of seiing starfish. Very calm, pretty area. Found several starfish that we let the kids hold and then put back. Then we hit Rum Point. Kids enjoyed being able to walk out so far and have the water only be up to their knees. Snorkeling not so good here. We wanted to visit the Botanic Park on the way back but by this point kids were cranky and hungry. We wanted to stop at Rankins or Woody's for some local fare but someone missed them on the way back. So this led us to the next culinary disaster. I am ashamed to admit we stopped at Wendys. My husband kept muttering to himself about this one but everyone was hungry and it was there. We did at least find a beach to eat it on. After everyone was sufficiently fueled, we hit Eden Rock on the way back to the condo.

Eden Rock: We went here twice. Great snorkeling spot in Georgetown. They also had lounge chairs for those who did nor snorkel. Tons of fish as soon as you step off the ladder. But then again the appear to be well fed by the staff so why wouldn't they crowd in!

Turtle Farm: I had read on the board before we left and confirmed that after 4 pm Fridays admission for adults was free. One time they said it was open until 11 pm and the other time I called they said 9 or 10. No matter, our plan was to go right after dinner at Fisherman's Reef. Turned that everyone got in free..not surprising since the entire place was pitch black! You could hear the turtles and kind of see dark shapes but that's it. So be warned: Do not go after dark!! Had we gone at 4 or 5 it would have been fine. So we went again another day. We didn't do the entire park as the kids had already seen sea turtles and petted stingrays and held starfish. But the kids enjoyed seeing and holding the turtles.

Overall, despite a few glitches, we had a great and memorable trip. Here is the link to my partial photos. Hope you enjoy.

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