Caribbean Diary, Day 5: Grand Cayman
Posted by Lissa on June 12, 2008
Happy birthday to me,
I liked La-ba-dee
Jamaica was awesome
And horsies will be!
To backtrack just a little, last night Mike and I went to the martini bar on Floor 14, aptly and amusingly named Olive or Twist. (Giggle-snort.) Tis a kind, just God who invented such happy alcoholic deliciousness as a Chocolate Mint Martini. Of course, it says right in the Bible that God invented good and God invented evil; this explains the presence of the gin martini. (Shudder.) Mike didn’t actually finish his, which is probably why he managed to live till this morning. Or perhaps all the food from the midnight buffet helped dilute the ickiness. We haven’t had the midnight buffet every night, just last night; they had music and dancing “under the stars” (of which you could see perhaps two) and really happy tropical drinks. Why so you happy, you may ask? Well, dear child, they were so happy because they had little multicolored lights blinking in the base. I know, I know, y’all can’t BELIEVE I was massively entertained by the blinking colored drink glass J
Speaking of silly entertainment, the silly birthday song at the post’s beginning took longer than you would think to compose this morning; very little rhymes with Grand Cayman and I hadn’t had much coffee. We managed to make it to the breakfast buffet today, but only because we were smart enough to order coffee-only room service. (An aside – you’d think that having fresh coffee waiting by your bedside would be enough to get anyone up; not so. As Jenny will happily tell you, I once actually doused her in coffee in the attempt to get her out of bed. And when I say “actually doused her in coffee,” I mean “I tried once more to waft the coffee scent towards her nose at the same time that she rolled over and whacked the cup with her arm, sending a WAVE of coffee sloshing over the bed which was neither my intention nor my fault.” Really.)
The first tender boat landed in Grand Cayman at around 9:30 AM. Our tour didn’t meet until 10:15 so we spent some time looking through the duty-free shops. I was pleased that the stores right next to the pier offered cheap-touristy stuff, rather than the designer clothing, watches and jewelry that I had no interest in buying. The tour ran perhaps twenty minutes late at the start; in my family we joke about Mom being on Island Time, which is fifteen-to-thirty minutes behind the rest of the world, but it’s actually true on Grand Cayman. We loaded up in our “air-conditioned coach” (known to Americans as a mini-bus) and trekked over to the Nautilus, a semi-submersible. The Nautilus looked like a basic, albeit small, pontoon boat, but all the seating was below the water line in an area lined with windows. The tour crossed several coral formations, including the famous Cheeseburger Reef, as well as two shipwrecks. (No, the reef is not made of cheeseburgers. The guide told us today why it’s called that, but his accent was pretty strong and he was mumbling a bit, so I’ll leave the curious to check Wikipedia.org.) We also saw loads of pretty fish, many of which looked tasty (the guide’s favorite fish was barracuda, of which we saw three).
The boat tour took perhaps an hour. (The entire Land-and-Sea Excursion was billed as a three-and-a-half hour tour, which Mike insisted on calling “a three-hour tour,” so that we could pretend we were from Gilligan’s Island.) The bus ride to the next stop, the Turtle Farm, took us through some different Cayman neighborhoods and allowed the guide to share some local wisdom, including:
– There is almost no crime in Grand Cayman, due to 1) virtually no unemployment, 2) rather strict laws. For example, the speed limit throughout the island is 40 mph; if you get caught going more than 50 mph you automatically get your licensed yanked for six months.
– Caymanian police do not carry sidearms, nor even batons. They do however carry a cane, which they call The Stick; as they say, “Da stick will do da trick.”
– The island is really, really flat; the highest hill is sixty feet above sea-level (or maybe ninety , I can’t remember). The whole damn thing was under three-to-four feet of water during Hurricane Ivan in 2004; the island actually went off the radar map. That’s why all the cars we saw were relatively new; literally all the cars were ruined during the hurricane.
– The economy depends entirely on offshore banking and tourism. The government doesn’t tax anything; they get grants from Great Britain (Grand Cayman voted to remain a crown colony) for some of it and pay for the rest . . . um, somehow. Sorry, it was a lot of information that he threw at us and I wasn’t taking notes J
The next stop was the Botswain Turtle Farm, the only known turtle farm in the world. Turtle meat is considered a delicacy in those parts; the driver swore that turtle meat tastes just like pork, only the fat part of the meat is green rather than white. (In which case, I’ll take the pork, please.) They have all these HUGE freaking sea turtles floating about and getting, um, amorous; after the turtles mate, they bury the eggs in an artificial beach. The farm folks collect them, tag them, and incubate them; some are kept for breeders, some are harvested for consumption, and twenty percent are released back into the wild. I’ll have to edit this post later to insert a picture of my holding a flapping turtle and looking completely engrossed; I was busy telling it how my kitty would want to play with it. We skipped the Turtle Burgers and the Turtle Soup.
After the turtle farm we stopped in Hell. Yes, there is an actual town in Grand Cayman named Hell. The name comes from this freakish formation of limestone that stands in the midst of palm trees and sweetsops trees. The stones are a dark-gray and twisted and actually do look rather like devilish teeth that broke through the surface. Besides that, and one souvenir shop, the only other things of interest were a few roosters walking about and occasionally crowing. (I clucked to them but they did not seem eager to let me pet them. A pity.)
Our final stop was at the Tortuga Rum Factory, which included samples of lots of different kinds of rum and different flavors of rum cake. It also included growing anxiety on our part, as the time was 2:15 PM when we pulled up at and the last tender left was scheduled to leave from the pier at 3:15 PM. The driver airily dismissed our concerns, assuring us we would get back in time, which did not exactly endear him to Mike and me. We were there for about twenty minutes, most of which I spent grabbing souvenirs for the family, since it was obvious at this point that there would be no time for shopping once we returned to the pier. (We were scheduled to return to the pier by two and had planned on picking up souvenirs and Cuban cigars on the way back to the ship. We got there at 2:45 and went straight to the tender. The guide, however, helpfully described all the best shops and restaurants . . . that we did not have time to explore. Grrr.)
It took quite a while to get back to the ship; I don’t know if everyone else’s excursions rate late as well, but they had at least four tender boats going and still it took a good twenty-five minutes to get on board. (I got a great picture of the monster boat with two tender boats docked alongside; the monster boat could SO OBVIOUSLY *EAT* the tender boats with no chewing. Think Rajah with a treat; just down the hatch. No pun intended.) We stopped at Sorrento’s for a quick slice of pizza and then came back to the room to find all sorts of pretty yellow, blue and gold decorations for my birthday, yay!! And a chocolate cake, yay!!! Thank you Mike and family folks, they were lovely and delicious, respectively.
I must dash off now and get ready for my super-wonderful seafood birthday dinner at Portfino’s. Thank you everyone who called or hit Facebook to wish me happy birthday, I love you all!
(Two edits made)