|By: Paul S. Cilwa||Viewed: 8/24/2019
|Topics/Keywords: #Cruise #WesternCaribbean #CarnivalLegend #GrandCayman||Page Views: 2851|
|We visit Grand Cayman island in the Western Caribbean, on the third day of our cruise.|
Our stay at Grand Cayman was destined to be a short one. To start with, Michael had pre-booked an excursion called the Trolley Roger which lasts an hour. But he didn't want to go alone, and I didn't want to go at all, since I used to give that sort of tour in St. Augustine. But I did think Mary would enjoy it, and she agreed—but had neglected to pre-book it. Now, as we stopped by the concierge's desk in the morning, we learned that the Trolley Roger was booked up.
As an alternative, Michael learned he could trade his ticket for the Trolley Roger, for a longer Island Tour. I bought one for Mary; and, since this was a longer tour (two hours, we were told) I went ahead and got a ticket for myself, with the idea of returning to the ship for lunch, then coming back to shore to swim. All had to be done by the time the ship left at 4 pm. In fact, the concierge advised us that the last tender would be leaving at 3 pm.
Zachary's wish was to bring his entire bag of plastic soldiers to the beach and play with them. It was hard to argue with that, since it would be the cheapest possible thing we could do on Grand Cayman. He also thought snorkeling would be fun. I really wanted to join him, but now I was committed to this tour.
One good thing about the tour was that it was leaving an hour later than the Trolley Roger. We had gotten up at 7 am, to allow time for breakfast as well as taking the tender to Grand Cayman. Grand Cayman doesn't have a pier; ships drop anchor offshore and tenders come fluttering up to it, picking up passengers bound for the shore and dropping off passengers heading for the ship. These tenders run all day while the ship is there.
Meanwhile, stress blew our way from Dottie and Frankie's cabin. They couldn't find their drivers' licenses. The couple had to have had them when they got on the ship; but now they were nowhere to be found. The problem was, without them they couldn't go ashore; they wouldn't be able to leave the terminal when we returned to Tampa; and even if they could, they still wouldn't be able to board their plane to return home. So this wasn't like misplacing a bathing suit; it was serious, with implications that would impact the remainder of the cruise and beyond.
The rest of us decided to have breakfast while they searched; since ten people packed into their little stateroom would not have been conducive to finding anything but a frayed temper. After awhile, though, Kathy went down to help look while Frankie, a haunted look on his face, came up for air. "I've seen 'The Terminal,'" he remarked grimly, referencing the Tom Hanks movie where a man without proper papers can't leave the airport and can't board a plane, either…for over a month.
Kathy returned. "I've looked everywhere," she said. "It just isn't there."
Mary called Dottie to offer encouragement and sympathy. Dottie thought possibly she and Frankie had put the licenses on the desk and then accidentally had knocked them into the trash can. All the trash on the ship is incinerated, which produces some 11 megawatts of electric power while reducing ship's solid waste to a fine, environmentally neutral sterile ash. If this had happened to their drivers' licenses…
Kathy went to look some more. Mary, Michael and I had to leave; we had tickets that required our presence at 10:45 ship's time. (The ship is on Tampa time, Eastern Daylight. Grand Cayman is in the Eastern time zone, but does not bother with Daylight Savings Time. They don't need to, since they get enough sunlight year round that they don't need to save any.)
We returned to our rooms to get our cameras. While there, we received a call from Dottie. "We found it!" she cried jubilantly. "It was in Kathy's purse all the time!"
"Kathy's purse? What was it doing there?!"
"We think Frankie might have stuck it in there when we boarded the ship."
Well, okay. That problem was over; and Mary, Michael and I joined the line snaking its way to the tender port.
Our rooms are on deck 1. Below that is deck "A", a utility deck that includes bay doors—think the USS Enterprise' shuttlecraft bay—that can be opened to provide docking for the tenders.
The line moved swiftly and soon the three of us had boarded. When the little boat was filled, it pulled away and we got our first look at the outside of the ship in which we'd lived for parts of three days.
The ride to the tender pier wasn't more than ten minutes, during which we passed other cruise ships, commercial tourist vessels such as restored "pirate" ships and glass bottom "submarines" that take visitors who prefer to stay dry, to the reefs.
There is no naturally-occurring fresh water on Grand Cayman, which is simply an ancient coral reef left over from ancient times when ocean levels were higher than they are now. With no fresh water, there are no rivers or streams delivering mud or sediment to the sea. That's what makes the ocean, right up to the shore, crystal blue and clear as can be—a perfect situation for SCUBA, snorkeling, and other water sports, especially ones that involve trying to view sea life.
After a short wait in the pleasant temperature but oppressive humidity, our tour guide, a young Caymanian named Bryon, showed up and led us to the bus that would drive us around for our Island Tour. Bryan was bright and articulate, although he apologized for his "broken English" right off. Although he certainly had a strong Caribbean accent, his English was fine and quite understandable. As he drove (on the left side of the road!), he provided a high-level outline of the island's history and high points. Much of the information was filler, of course: How much the expensive homes cost ($3.9 million dollars in the poshest sections), how much a room costs at the Ritz Carlton ($999 a night—not including tip). But then we got to a beach, part of famed Seven Mile Beach (which in actuality is only five-and-a-half-miles long), we got a chance to see the reason tourists come here: Light tan sand, smooth and fine; exposed coral rock, natural bridges and tunnels carved by incessant waves over the millennia.
An inescapable part of any tour of Grand Cayman is Hell, a small town named after an outcropping of iron rock, a conglomerate of limestone and dolomite that has been exposed to the elements long enough to have worn it into fantastic, vertical shapes; and to the sun long enough to have blackened the naturally white material.
While the rock formation is interesting enough, in a geological sort of way, the town of Hell has made the most of its name, selling T-shirts with slogans such as "I've Been To Hell And Back" and marriage certificates from the "Chapel of Hell". Although Grand Cayman runs a cottage industry in quickie marriages, we decided this wouldn't be a good place for Dottie and Frankie to tie the knot. (Besides, after the fuss over the drivers' licenses, no one had the nerve to bring up the topic of marriage licenses.)
Our next stop was the Sea Turtle Farm. When Columbus landed here on his first voyage, his men found thousands of green sea turtles swarming around the island, which they preferred for nesting—possibly because the lack of fresh water meant a scarcity of predatory animals. Human presence after that impacted the nesting grounds for the turtles, which lay their eggs on the same spot of beach year after year. If the beach is destroyed or replaced by a condominium, that turtle won't lay any more eggs. At the Sea Turtle farm, that problem has been solved by transplanting turtle eggs to an artificial beach within its grounds. When the baby turtles hatch, they are moved into incubators. (Their mothers don't mind; they ignore their babies after laying. And their daddies never even come ashore.)
After hatching, the baby turtles are put into tanks where they grow the fifteen years required before they are ready to mate. They are then put into a sort of turtle's Niagara Falls where they meet the turtle of their dreams, mate, and then the mommies climb onto the artificial beach where they were hatched and lay the next generation.
After that, 40% of the turtles are set free—the ladies return of their own volition each year to mate—and the other 60% are used as food. Thus the Grand Cayman culture is able to eat their traditional dishes, while restoring an endangered species to its natural population levels in the wild.
Because they have been handled and fed by humans all their lives, the green sea turtles are very gentle and winning creatures. They cannot withdraw their heads into their shells and their fins cannot scratch their necks; so, like dogs, they love to have their necks rubbed and when people approach, they swim to that side of their tanks for a quick pet and massage. They also don't mind being held; and visitors are encouraged to do this.
Our final stop was the Tortuga Rum Cake Factory, which sells both rum, and cakes soaked in rum. I don't drink much and have never cared for rum. But Bryan gave me a taste of some coconut rum that was just delicious. And, of course, don't get between me and cake. I sampled bites of some ten different flavors.
So I was pretty much flying by the time we left.
Finally, we returned to the pier. We had expected the tour to last two hours, but it had lasted three. I had really wanted to join Zachary and Cailey swimming in the inviting water down at Seven Mile Beach; but there wasn't time. Regretfully, Mary, Michael and I returned to the tenders, and then to our ship, which almost immediately raised anchor and began its leisurely way toward tomorrow's port-of-call.
Just before dinner, the ship's cruise director announced over the ship's intercom that one of the passengers had been stricken ill, so seriously that we would have to return to Grand Cayman to get him to the hospital.
After another exquisite dinner—I had Jerk Pork, a Caribbean dish that was mildly spicy and totally delicious—all of us but Dottie went to the Firebird Club for karaoke, even Zach and Cailey. Cailey couldn't wait to perform. Sonya, the mistress of ceremonies, graciously allowed her to sing a song she (I think) made up on the spur of the moment about George Washington. She was adorable, and everyone in the audience seemed to agree, giving her a thunderous applause. Zachary, older than Cailey, seemed to "get" the karaoke idea and distinguish between it and a completely impromptu performance. He took a little longer to get his nerve up, but finally decided he would sing The Star Spangled Banner if it was listed in the karaoke book. It was, and we filled out a slip for him and put it on the MC's table with the others. By this time, several adults had performed but none got more applause than Zach…and that includes Michael who sang Somewhere (from West Side Story) and me (who sang Jimmy Buffet's Come Monday).
Later, when only Michael and I remained, I put my name in for a contest to sing an Elton John song later in the cruise, with a live band backing and professional dancers. John sings higher notes than I can comfortably reach, so I wasn't surprised when someone else won the contest. But it was fun to compete just the same.