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mah1980 Dec 15th, 2008 09:00 PM

Just back from Grand Cayman- Ritz Carlton
I haven't been on this board in a while due to a crazy work schedule, but I wanted to share a brief report from our 6 day trip to Grand Cayman (returning late Saturday, 12/13).

The trip on AA was uneventful and refreshingly brief.

1. Island Choice: Grand Cayman has never been on our "must visit" island list. But, we had a limited travel window due to work commitments, and the islands we wanted to go to, Nevis and Anguilla, would not work out with mileage tickets. So, off to Grand Cayman we went with limited expectations of getting sun, eating good food, and staying at a nice hotel.

2. Hotel: We chose to stay at the Ritz Carlton on Seven Mile Beach as we were able to get a good rate with the Reconnect Package, which I highly recommend. It includes the awesome breakfast buffet each morning (omelet station, waffles, the whole nine yards; valued at about $75/two adults) and a $100 resort credit per day. We elected to go with this hotel over the Westin as we wanted to go all out since it's been a rough 2008 work wise. We were not disappointed and experienced really great, attentive service the whole trip.

However, a couple of disclaimers on the Ritz. First and foremost, I think the beach could get packed like sardines during peak times (i.e. Spring Break, Christmas) because of the three rows of beach chairs they have set up. Second, the prices aren't cheap for food and drink, but it's generally like that on the whole island. Lastly, it's kind of annoying the way they have the resort building, housing the lobby, Blue by Eric Ripert restaurant, spa, etc., across the street from the beach. The ocean front building and resort building are connected by a gallery featuring local Caymanian art. While the art was beautiful, it gets kind of tedious having to make the walk back to the room if you wanted to grab a book that you forgot.

We would go back to this hotel in a heartbeat in large part due to the service. Plus, while it was high end it wasn't stuffy, and you didn't feel like you needed to be "dressed" or be done up.

3. Restaurants: We had success with our restaurants. We generally had the big breakfast buffet at the Ritz Carlton, shared something for lunch at the beach bar at the hotel with cocktails, and then had a good dinner. We ate at the following places during our trip: Ragazzi's (good homemade Italian), the Wharf (great vibe right on the water), Eats Cafe (decent food with large menu), Deckers (great menu with live music on Fridays and Saturdays), and Yoshi Sushi (really good Japanese food, next to Eats cafe a short walk from Ritz).

What was shocking was the extremely high price of beer on the island. A Red Stripe would cost $6 CI, or about $8 USD!!! But, when in Rome...

4. Island as a Whole: Grand Cayman strikes me as a more developed Turks and Caicos with better service. We were impressed with the high service standards throughout the island, from the pleasant and honest cab drivers to the professional and prompt wait staff at each restaurant. We were also struck at the high standard of living seemingly widespread on the island. Clearly, the banking industry has afforded a nice life for many island residents and has led to happy citizens!

The island is obviously dry with a coral based beach. Seven Mile beach was beautiful and generally calm. We made it to Georgetown one day, unfortunately when 2 cruise ships were in port. To make a long story short, it rained cats and dogs and it wasn't too fun to be looking around tourist trap shops with a ton of people from the cruise. I certainly wouldn't go to Grand Cayman for the shopping or cultural experience, but that's not why we went.

5. Final Thoughts: We really had a great time on our trip. We wanted to have a relaxing, easy trip with a high end hotel, good service, and nice restaurants, all of which we achieved on Grand Cayman. I think if you're looking for those things you will be happy with a trip to Grand Cayman. We particularly liked how we didn't need to take taxis since everything was within walking distance on Seven Mile beach (and you felt comfortable walking).

All and all, a great and relaxing trip.

Callaloo Dec 16th, 2008 03:13 AM

Welcome home, and thanks for the report! Your impressions are very similar to mine, having gone to GC and stayed at the RC last July. Not our first choice of destination, but certainly pleasant enough. (We had the added requirement on that particular trip of playing tennis, and the facilities at the RC are very good).

I can confirm that in July -- school vacation time -- the RC beach front is packed, and there is some unpleasant jockeying and gamesmanship for prime beach and poolside spots. I would have thought the RC could handle that better.

girlonthego Dec 16th, 2008 03:45 AM

We also had a good experience traveling to GC in June 07. We stayed at the much smaller Marriott down the beach. We did dine at the RC at the 7 Prime Cuts restaurant and they did have excellent service and food.
We found GC to be a very friendly and family oriented island. Our kids walked up and down the beach and we never felt unsafe. Food was good and we dined in some of the same places :)
We also liked the snorkeling and the waters were beautiful. We also don't shop much so the small town was fine with us.
Glad you liked it. We would go back as well.

virginia Dec 16th, 2008 04:53 AM

hi mah, welcome back to fodors! i'm heading to gc in april so was glad to read your trip report. we love on the water dining - where is the wharf located?

mah1980 Dec 16th, 2008 07:48 AM

Hi Virginia,

The Wharf is located on Seven Mile Beach, about a three-quarters of a mile from the Ritz Carlton and Westin (going towards Georgetown). A closer beachfront option that gets good reviews is Luca, which is owned by the Italians who run Ragazzi. It's right on the beach in the hotel fka as Hyatt Regency.

At 9 p.m. the Wharf does a nightly tarpon feeding. We were too early for that, but we nonetheless saw a lot of fish jumping out of the water!

Naveron Dec 16th, 2008 12:41 PM

I note that the GC Ritz Carlton has now topped the Conde Nast list for best Caribbean resort.

ejcrowe Dec 17th, 2008 09:55 AM

Hi, mah--it's nice to see you name back in these here parts. Thanks for the trip report on GC. Like you, it's not been at the top of the list for a vacation, but I would be happy enough to get there using my FF miles one of these days. Glad you had a good time overall and sorry to hear that 2008 has been so stressful for you. May 2009 be an improvement!

NM Dec 20th, 2008 05:03 PM

We were in GC this past summer after a 4 yr. break. We travel throughout the Carib. and my husband commented that GC had really become too busy for our taste (and he really loves GC's diving). We didn't stay at the Ritz but walked through it and had a few dinners and lunches there--it hardly qualifies as a laid-back beach resort although we found good service and food. If you're looking for a more low-key beach holiday--I'd take AXA or Nevis over GC.

luvtotravl Dec 21st, 2008 06:18 AM

We used to stay on 7MB, but also found it too busy for our tastes. However, if you stay on the East End, it is a totally different peaceful experience, with long white almost deserted beaches and excellent snorkeling and dive shops. Give the Reef Resort or Morritt's Grand Resort a try (not Tortuga). We recently bought weeks at both resorts, and now stay on the east end, and just do short day trips to 7MB when we want to mix it up a bit. We're heading back for a few weeks in January, and can't wait! (It's freezing in the Midwest!!!)

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