May 29, 2014 | George Town, Grand Caymam
THE BEST DAY.
I’m so sorry I’ve been neglecting my blog! I have plenty of excuses: I helped train someone to take over my old job, I started a new job, I spent a week training in D.C., I was away this weekend, and now I’m getting geared up for a work trip to San Francisco. But, you know, I can make excuses all day or I can carve out an hour each day to work on a blog post. I don’t want to give up on these updates, and I want to remember how wonderfully relaxing this trip was. So, I’m back!
Looking back, Day 5 was our favorite cruising day. It started off with a fantastic breakfast. We ordered room service: eggs, hashbrowns, a roasted tomato, a fruit platter, a pastry platter, coffee and orange juice all for a grand total of $0.00. Yep. Room service is so convenient (you can order by phone, TV, or hanging the knob on your door!) and there is no charge, although we tip.
We decided to do room service instead of a sit-down or buffet breakfast because instead of docking right next to a pier and walking off the ship at our leisure like we had been doing for the past two days, at Grand Cayman, everyone had to take tender boats from the cruise ship to shore. We were warned that can take up to 45 minutes. We weren’t scheduled to dock until 8, and we were supposed to meet for our excursion at 8:45, so we wanted to get one of the first boats over.
The tender was fast, simple, and enjoyable enough. I wondered if I would feel sea sick from being on this tiny boat, but I didn’t. It was a fun adventure and we got to chat with some other first time cruisers.
We knew we had to look for a yellow tent, and friendly people were there to help direct us and check our tickets to confirm we were in the right place. We were there by 8:30, so we had plenty of time. It was hot and overcast early in the morning.
We had a large group, but our tour guide divided us into groups of about 15-17 people, and each group got it’s own tour bus. Ours was #5. The bus was comfortable and air-conditioned, and the driver had a microphone so we could hear everything he shared about the island. He even made a few stops for us to take pictures. Our tour was scheduled to go to the turtle farm, a Tortuga rum shop, HELL, and then a Stingray City adventure. We did all of those things but not in that order, I think they stagger all of the smaller groups.
Our first stop was in “Hell” and our driver told us that we’d have 15 minutes to check it out. We learned that this area was named “hell” because of the crazy rock formations in that area that formed from acid rain. We snapped a few pictures and then went inside to mail postcards to our families.
We piled back into the bus and drove to our next stop: the Tortuga Rum Cake Factory. Well, it was just a small store (everything was grander in my imagination) but we got free freshly-baked vanilla and chocolate rum cake samples and they were delicious! There were also free shots of rum available, but we skipped those.
Our next stop was the turtle farm! We had an hour to spend there and to be honest my first thought was, “I hope that’s enough time!”
I’d been imagining what this Turtle Farm might look like for months. I imagined a HUGE property with different air conditioned aquariums and “farms” with turtles of different ages. It was well-organized and it seems like they have a great operation going on that helps sustain the turtle population (they farm them each year and then release 90% into the wild), but it was much more, well, unstructured than I imagined. We saw the giant turtles first.
They were climbing all over each other, but they had plenty of space to swim around. We learned a few facts like the males have longer tails, and the females have shorter tails.
After that, we went over to the pools of 1-2 year old turtles. We were allowed and encouraged to pick them up, but I declined. I felt bad for these turtles because there didn’t seem to be enough supervision. Kids could hop into the pools and lift the turtles up. There were plenty of signs around demonstrating how not/to handle the turtle (don’t hold them out of the water too long, they could overheat, lift with two hands under the shell; do not grab their fins). I just wished there was someone there enforcing the rules and monitoring everyone.
From there we ventured in to see the hatchling and education building. One room had foam boxes full of eggs that were growing:
We watched the video which explained a lot and convinced me this was a good operation. Other than that, the only things that we had access to were a restaurant and the gift shop(s). I was hungry – we both were – and luckily we found a piece of banana bread we could buy to hold us over.
I was pretty excited but also really nervous about our next stop…
… 2 hours in Stingray City.
I brought our water shoes so I went ahead and put those on. I thought that would make me feel safe and protect me from their stingers (spoiler alert: you’re only allowed to go in barefoot). So, the back story: fisherman used to clean their fish on this sandbar to avoid mosquitoes. They found lots of stingrays there sunning themselves and staying protected from the sharks in the deeper water. They fed the stingrays some of the left over fish guts, and this essentially domesticated them. Nowadays, you can go out on this sand bar and play with the stingrays. I love animals. I really wanted to do this. But I was scared – especially when they told me I had to go barefoot.
And then, we just hopped in with the stingrays.
I was so scared.
I’ll let the video speak for itself, but I was squealing silently every time one brushed up against me: http://youtu.be/2fT5NERv8Wc
Bret was brave and cool and as a cucumber so that made me feel a little more courageous. We both held a female stingray and Bret even kissed her for good luck! Of course, we bought the $40 worth of digital photos they took of us.
I did it!!!
The boat ride back was nice and relaxing. The boat wasn’t fancy – but it was functional – and they gave us free water and fruit punch if we wanted it.
We had to wait in a long line to catch the tender back over at 2:45. As soon as we were back, we changed clothes really fast and then made our way up to Johnny Rockets. During “Happy Hour” you can order anything off the menu including milkshakes and sodas for a flat rate of $6/person. I ate way too much (onion rings, fries, tuna melt, vanilla coke, chocolate milkshake) and Bret ate even more! But after skipping lunch, it was a good feeling. We pulled away from the dock while we enjoyed our meal, and it was perfect.
During the rest of the afternoon, we watched some kids try to boogie board on the Flow Rider, we played some ping pong, and then made it back to our room for showers and laziness. We decided to skip formal dinner tonight mainly because we were still SO FULL from Johnny Rockets. Instead, we headed to the Champagne Bar for some delicious cocktails. We talked with another couple who was also on their first cruise, and we really enjoyed talking with the bar tender. We told her about our stingray adventure and she told us about when she had to jump in the water during cruise training.
She gave us each a free drink, and we headed over to the Once Upon a Time Show! This show was fun. The cast sang pop music while acting out parts of popular fairy tales.
After the show we were finally hungry(ish) so we went to Windjammer. I got my usual salad and a roll and added a seafood baked potato. We came back to the room for a few minutes and I considered all the fun things we could do: get the drink of the day in the souvuineer glass, go to the casino, watch adult karoke, go see our pictures, have a nightcap at the Champagne Bar. Well, we did it all. We got the lemonade-y drink of the day. It was very tart. We spent $20 at the casino. We found some of our port pictures.
After that we really fought the urge to be tired.
We went to the coffee shop and each had a coffee. There was a late night white party up at the pool, so we went up there to see the set up. There were fun crazy lights and some people were lounging on the chairs watching a poolside movie. We walked around a bit and then Bret decided he could handle a couple slices of pizza. We went to Sorrentos and shared a few slices. It wasn’t even 11, but I was dragging, so we decided it was acceptable to go to bed.
At the time, we felt like we were going to bed early, but when I consider everything we did that day, I think we had a very full very fun day. I’ll try my best to get Day 6 up this week!