Trip Report: Grand Cayman

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Mar 2nd, 2008, 12:44 PM
  #1
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Join Date: Feb 2003
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Trip Report: Grand Cayman

Just got back from a week on Grand Cayman and thought I'd pass on the following info: We stayed at the Grand Cayman Beach Suites, which until last month was the Hyatt Regency. The hotel is still owned by the same company and managed by the same people, but it is no longer affiliated with Hyatt. Since we hadn't been here before, I can't make a comparison as to what it was like before the switch; I can only tell you what we experienced.

Overall, I'd say the hotel was just okay. While this was our first stay here, even just by appearances, the hotel is clearly not what it was in its glory days, prior to hurricane Ivan. Apparently, the damage was quite extensive, as more than half of the resorts property is now closed. The hotel used to have well over 200 rooms - now, there are only 54 suites.

Essentially, all the rooms that were closer to the beach were renovated as suites, meaning separate bedroom/living room/small kitchenette, and all the property and rooms across the highway were closed and never reopened. This is important to note, since many of the photos that were on the website were of the property before Ivan and it's a bit misleading. For example, the website made it seem as if the Britannia golf course was right behind the resort. It is, but it's right behind the part of the resort that's closed. This means that if you want to golf there, you need to either walk, drive or take their complimentary shuttle down the road. We didn't golf, but the distance in addition to the high green fees did deter us from going there.

So the part of the resort that remains open is what I believe were the more "premium" accommodations prior to Ivan, in that they are on the same side of the highway as the beach.

Since the resort is basically made up of "what's left" after Ivan, it's a little bit of an odd set up in that the main lobby area is more like the lobby of a really small hotel. If you've ever stayed at a Courtyard by Marriott or Comfort Suites in the US, that's the kind of feel it has. There's a check in counter, a stand for activity brochures, and a counter for coffee/tea urns and that's about it. So it's not the most welcoming sight when you check in. The rooms are okay. They're clean and a decent size, but they're nothing to write home about and don't particularly look nice (nor do they look bad, just blah). Again, Courtyard by Marriott comes to mind. Not to sound like a snob, but we've done quite a bit of traveling and have stayed at some very nice resorts in the South Pacific and the Caribbean and I have to say, this was not one of the nicer places we've been to.

The Cons: carpeting has a bit of an antiseptic smell to it, the TV's are older model RCA's with cheap staticky speakers, it's impossible to figure out how to set the alarm clock (I'm not kidding and I'm normally very good with these things), the bedroom windows and your front door face the street (like a motel) and Decker's across the street has live music Thurs, Fri and Saturdays which can get pretty annoying when you're trying to sleep at 11p.m., very limited parking space, no lounge, lobby or concierge, 2 small gift shops, late check out means 1 hour later than 12p.m. - anything beyond that and they wanted to charge us $160CI!

The Pros: 2 very good restaurants (Hemmingways and Bamboo) comfortable beds, big bathtubs, good housekeeping staff, very nice beach, small but nice pools (depends on what you're into; we were traveling with our 21 month old and it's a PERFECT set up for babies/toddlers/little kids), good central location to everything including supermarkets, restaurants, shopping nearby, even walkable to Georgetown if you're up to it, great Dive operator, Red Sail Sports. Red Sail Sports is by far the largest dive operation on the island, and they have a very good staff who are friendly and experienced, have good rental equipment, great dive boats, and overall very professional. FYI, Red Sail also will sail their boats over to the Westin and the Ritz Carlton and pick you up for your dives.

So overall, the beach and pool area and restaurants are quite nice, the rooms are eh, okay, and it's in a pretty prime location. With all the construction going on around the island, I'm really surprised they haven't rebuilt the other side of the property to restore it to what I understand was once a really nice hotel. If I had to do it all over again, I'd have booked earlier to get a suite at the Westin (we waited too long and they weren't available) or I'd pay more and stay at the Ritz Carlton.

A few restaurant recommendations: The Grand Old House is a very cool old plantation house that's now an Austrian consulate (?) and restaurant. Sounds weird, but it's a beautiful place and the food was outstanding. We went there for lunch, which was probably the smart thing to do since it's very expensive. Another great place is The Reef Grill over at the Royal Palms - very good food and great service. Deckers has all you can eat lobster night on Tuesdays for $45 (CI) - if you've got an appetite, it's great. Cracked Conch is the place to go for Conch and a great view, Bamboo had surprisingly good sushi (I'm Japanese, so I kinda know what's good and whats hype) and Prime Churascuria is a great Brazilian steakhouse. Dining in Grand Cayman is expensive. Expect to pay $300-400 US on average, for dinner for four. We lived in Manhattan for 10 years so we're quite used to pricey restaurants, but we were surprised just how expensive everything was in Grand Cayman. We were really tired one night after a day of diving and decided to just pick up some take out - even KFC for 4 people cost over $60 US!

Lastly,3 final things to note: Do go to Boatswain's Turtle Farm, but just do the turtle farm part. They give you the option of just doing the turtle farm for one price, vs. doing the whole park for another (much higher) price. It's a complete ripoff to do anything more than the turtle farm. Use your American Express card and you'll get a 15% discount. The QEII Botanical Gardens were surprisingly cool (apparently everyone has the same reaction); worth checking out. If you're comfortable driving on the left side of the road, rent a car - you can cover a lot of the island on your own, and the freedom of being able to come and go as you please and go to all the restaurants makes it well worth it.

This was our second trip to Grand Cayman - the 1st was during a cruise that was given to us as a gift. Grand Cayman is very, very, very built up by comparison to other Caribbean islands. If you're looking for some place to "get away from it all" I'd suggest you look elsewhere. On the other hand, if you're a diver, they have some really very nice dive sites, great visibility and if you're looking for someplace to take a toddler or young child, the beaches are very soft, with calm almost waveless waters. We had a great time in Grand Cayman, but we probably won't come back here for a while and if we did, I don't think we'd stay at the Grand Cayman Beach Suites again.

Hope all this writing is helpful to someone!!!
silver is offline  
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Mar 2nd, 2008, 03:57 PM
  #2
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 645
Thanks for the review!

I am in GCM right now on a work permit and agree with you about the beach seen. 7MB is just gorgeous and the water is amazing.

I've seen lots of kids running around and enjoying the water. With very little waves it allows the parents to not constantly be at the childrens side while they play.

Thanks for the resturant tips. I haven't ventured out too much to eat yet (sticking with eating in mostly) but will tuck away your recommendations for the future!

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Mar 3rd, 2008, 04:10 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 793
Thanks for the report. I liked CGI but would rent a condo if I went back. Dining is very expensive, I agree.

We didnt like the Westin and wouldnt stay there again. Carpeting in the rooms was moldy and the hotel in general is not worth the money.

Peace, Greenie

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Mar 3rd, 2008, 02:16 PM
  #4
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,832
Thanks for the trip report. A Red Stripe Beer on Seven Mile Beach sounds really good right now. As does dinner at the Grand Old House.
As for returning, I totally agree with Greenie. We will never stay at the Westin again. Now the Ritz is a different story..
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Mar 16th, 2008, 02:09 PM
  #5
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 49
Thanks for the trip report!

I'm a repeat visitor to the island and to the turtle farm and never new about the discount for Amex!! Will be sure to look into it during our Aug. trip.
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