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yannis Oct 18th, 2012 07:02 AM

June 2012 in Grand Cayman (report)
Hello all,
I realize it took me a while to report on our trip last June, to the cayman islands, and I am not good at writing reports, plus it has been a while since our trip, but here it is...
We were 6 travelers; me, my wife, my mother (ahem...ahm..) and our 3 children ages 6 years, 2 1/2 years old, and 5 months old baby. We had booked at the Lacovia based on the very well 'done' pictures and reports from travelers especially about the front desk manager. Our trip was relatively smooth, all things considered, especially the 3 young children, and my mother who needed to 'rest' occasionally from terminal to terminal, or en route to places, but overall the whole trip was OK. We had no mishaps or delays. We did not know much about the island (grand cayman) as this was our 2nd trip to the carib (first was to TCI). We arrived at the airport on a rainy afternoon, a bit windy, but hot and humid (as expected at this time). We were a bit disappointed by the weather as it was our first impression (little did we know that june-july is part of the rainy season....). We took a taxi and after about 15-20 mins ride we arrived at Lacovia. It was somewhat a shocking surprise to us that the 'front desk' area looked like a rundown motel 6 in the middle of knowhere...Quite disappointing, especially, after having seen all the pictures on their website that depicted a beautiful resort with well manicured grounds and swimming pools etc. The suite we booked had AC problems, so when we asked the front desk for another one, Sandra (I think that was her name) gladly gave us keys to 2 other units...We checked them both, the one smelled pretty bad (a mix of cigarette smoke and wet carpets..pretty strong) but the other was better, looked cleaner, and had no carpeting (only the stair case). It did not look anything like the pictures though. It was too dark especially in the living room area but it was clean and convenient. We settled in, finally, and decided to venture about the grounds to discover that construction was taking place at the swimming pool area where they were rebuilding the 'kiddie' pool. It was almost like a hazard for little ones to have to navigate about/around that to get to the bigger pool but it was something to keep kids (and adults) busy. The beach was ...only OK (as I compared it to the one at TCI , gracebay, the sands) but I knew this was primarily due to the rainy/stormy weather. The waters were not as clear though the turqoise color was there. We swam a few times but it was not that enjoyable simply because waters were not calm (no big waves or anything like that, just not like the grace bay). These were the conditions the first 3-4 days of our 7 night 8 day stay there...quite disappointing but again, I do recognize that it was primarily due to the fact that it was not the best season to go there, although I wish I knew before we travelled but I also assumed (big mistake) that it won't be much different than TCI as we traveled there exactly the same time period a couple of years ago.
Then, we decided to 'venture' on the front side of the resort. It was a wierd feeling, like we were on a hollywood movie setting depicting a western based in 1800s...On the front side (street side) things looked totally different. The beach side was 'paradise' while the street side looked like a busy Miami, Fla street with cars zooming up and down, lots of noise, in addition to the nearby construction of a new hotel/resort, and at night, the club across the street was too loud. Live music was going on until 2 a.m. Not ideal for those of us who sought quietness...but that we managed to live with anyhow as we are bostonians and used to the noise levels. Then, we took a taxi to drive us to the closest super market. We were ripped off as we paid $12 ($10 GC dollars) for a ride of ...less than or just about a mile...So, we walked back after our shopping and pushed the cart with groceries along the way. We were told that the next morning people come and pick those carts up so we were comfortable leaving it in front of our unit.
The next morning we decided to rent a minivan to explore the island and local restaurants. We rented from a place called Economy Rental, across the airport. Very nice lady from (originally) Cuba was at the front desk and she gave us a lot of information, tips, and a price break, even though we were 3 hours late in returning the vehicle as we dropped it off right before our departure. We rented a big (Hyundai) minivan seating 9, for $290 US for 7 days...
During our outings, we ate out 4-5 times, and two of those was at Cimboco, where the food was very good (to our taste). I ate both times their big burger with sauce and condiments...very tasty. Another time we ate at the Ragazzi italian restaurant where the food was...OK, americanized italian (as expected) and overpriced, but we knew that prices were going to be high anyway. We cooked a lot at our suite and we were happy with that arrangement. We actually enjoyed eating at our resort, sometimes, when temps were comfortable, we had our meals on the porch/balcony. The view was great! Nice, beautiful grounds, manicured lawns, and pretty overall scenery.
Meanwhile, during the day/evening we walked several times to the nearby mini mall and again, it had a 'feel/look' of US small city. I understand that a lot of what we experience and report on is very subjective, but I can't help but notice and say that I was not very impressed with the overall look of the area. It looked, on the busy street side at least, just like a small, semi-abandoned US city. Having put this kind of disappointment behind us, we decided to venture south/east and we drove around and visited downtown georgetown. There were several bright spots in terms of local architecture, flare, and culture, but mostly americanized mall type small shops with overpriced jewlery and other touristy stuff. We met several people, both locals and tourists and we had great exchanges, discussions about the island and other stuff, so we 'socialized' quite a bit. We also did the semi sub marine adventure. It was interesting to say the least. I get motion sickness, and despite my adequate dosage of dramamin, I felt horrible as I was just trying to 'stay' afloat! :). I had my mother and my two girls next to me who seemed to thoroughly enjoy the adventure, while my (poor) wife was on deck with our little guy as she had to (i know too much info) breastfeed our son. She seemed to have equally as much fun as our girls, enjoying the view and the breeze, looking at the town from the seaside. As I said, I was not doing that hot, but I am glad the rest enjoyed the adventure, and they took a lot of pictures of underwater life, including shipwrecks.
After that adventure we returned to the resort area and ate at Cimboco.
The last two days we spend driving around the island where we saw lots of beautiful (and very expensive) homes, nice beaches, and a somewhat unique sight. The shoe tree...I can't (honestly) remember the history behind it, but the whole tree trunk is loaded with shoes...In addition, we drove the the north-west part of the island where we enjoeyed the dolphins. We had a marvelous time in the pool with stingrays and dolphins, and the girls, though apprehensive initially, they loved the dolphins. Note, have the professionals take your pictures while you swim with the dolphins. They do a great job and although expensive, have the whole cd/album pics for $120. It is better than paying $20 per pic! Across the street, we also visited the turtle farm. There we walked around, the kids swam in the small pool area, and we enjoyed the landscapes. We ate at the local restaurant, but the food and service were not that great (this may have been due to the fact that a group of people were about to have a child's birthday party, thus staff focused their attention on setting the tables for that event).
We did not engage in the primarily interesting activities of snorkeling and diving etc, as no member in the family is big in those activities. We tried to get the most out of the whole experience, however, when vacationing with children, as you probably know, is not always easy to do everything you want, but overall we enjoyed the relaxation. For us was the primary reason for this trip.
In a nutshell, we enjoyed meeting locals and tourists, enjoyed the food and restaurants, the turtle farm, swim with dolphins, driving around the island, and submarine adventure. We, at some point of our travels around the island, we stopped at a small bed and breakfast type of place where a wedding ceremony was taking place. It was beautiful and took place right on the beach. We enjoyed 'wedding crashing" and after a quick stop to munch on snacks we continued to the south and east exploring the rest of the area by driving by and just looking. Our overall impression was a mixed one. The main reason is that we looked in to a more 'cosmopolitan' than the TCI, place, which we did get, but lacked local identity. It was all americanized and noisy. The people were great, locals and tourists likewise. The negatives in our experience came primarily from the american feel the area gave us. Lots of construction nearby and commotion along with noise. Beach was beautiful, but due to weather, waters were not as calm as usual. The overpriced and expensive food was overall good, but we liked better at places we ate at TCI.
For those aficionados of snorkeling and diving I am sure the cayman islands are a paradise, so I would strongly encourage those interested. For us, it was a neither hot, nor cold experience. An experience that could have been better under different circumstances (kids, weather :). Again, because our other (only) experience was from our trip to TCI and stay at The Sands during which we had a great time, this one seemed more 50/50 or disappointing. I am not sure if we would/could go back to cayman islands, but then again, never say never. We would like to go back to the carib. islands, so we will be looking at fodors for another great round of inquiries, info, and great suggestions from fodorites.
I would like to extend many thanks to blamona, virginia, and many others who provided very valuable information and advice. Looking forward to hearing from you again.
P.S. Please accept my apologies for the choppy report. I recognize that it is inadequate in depth of info, but my time is VERY limited. I hope this gives some basic info to those interested in traveling to gci and maybe generate some discussion here. Also, I did not get the chance to upload pictures, although when I find time I will put some together and upload them for you to see.
Thank you all again.

ejcrowe Oct 20th, 2012 05:40 AM

It's so disappointing when a trip doesn't deliver to one's expectations. My first trip to the Caribbean had similar disappointments to yours. The next time I researched the heck out of my upcoming trips and all was well.

There are other islands that might suit your needs better, and one way to avoid the shock of seeing non-photoshopped photos of your accommodations is to look at Trip Advisor. If a fabulous beach like Grace Bay is what you're looking for, some places are better than others, though it sounds like you got at least some enjoyment out of your Cayman trip.

I'd also strongly suggest that look into the swim with dolphins programs a little more closely before engaging in another one.

Beachqueen Oct 21st, 2012 12:36 PM

I am sorry to hear that you did not enjoy your stay. I believe that you are being much too critical. The excitement of going away precludes rational thinking Many times people blame the destination, when it is their fault. You wanted to be close to restaurants, but you did not like the strip malls they were in. You went to an Italian restaurant in the CARIBBEAN, why would this have to be authentic? If you stay in the center of the tourist area anywhere, you can expect noise. It appears that you did not venture out of the main tourist area much,and you went to the Dolphin center, definitely not an authentic Caymanian experience. If you had gone to Bodden Town or the East End, you might have eaten some authentic food and seen some Cayman style houses.

Resort condo rental offices are usually spartan, because are they usually just a place to pick up keys, why should the management waste their money putting in marble like a hotel lobby. In the beginning of your report you said that you were disappointed with Lacovia because it was rundown, then you said it had when you ate, you looked at the beautiful manicured grounds.
The weather happened to be bad the week you were there, that is just being unlucky. I know T & C and all of the other islands have storms. I hope that next trip is more satisfactory. One recommendation, go to VRBO to look at pictures of the individual condos and don't be afraid to ask for more from the owner instead of relying on the management office.

yannis Oct 25th, 2012 04:40 AM

ejcrowe, beachqueen
Thank you both for your responses. It is both educational and valuable your feedback and I appreciate your input. We, indeed, are looking for our next trip to the caribbean, and we are trying to decide a destination. I recognize that a lot of what is said is very subjective as for each of us beauty (or lack thereof) is in the eye of the beholder. In any case, thanks a lot, and I will be 'pestering' you fodorites again soliciting ideas. I had read about Barbados, and was originally inclined to set it as our next destination, but a couple of things kind of made me change my mind...One, a long discussion here on the forums set a negative tone about Barbados, and second...distance. It might be a bit challenging to have to be on the move for several hours with 3 little kids ...we'll...anyhow, any ideas are welcome.

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