Grand Cayman Island is a very popular cruise ship port of call in the western Caribbean. Cruise ship passengers will be taken by small boat to one of the cruise terminals of George Town, where they can walk to some local attractions.
About the Cayman Islands
Like Costa Rica, the Cayman Islands were discovered by Columbus. He originally named them Las Tortugas because of the many turtles on the islands and they were later renamed Caymanas for the crocodiles found there. Today the Caymans are a major Caribbean banking and financial center, a popular cruise ship port of call, and vacation destination. Although Grand Cayman is flat and relatively unattractive, its lenient tax and banking laws have attracted millionaire residents from around the world. Its crystal clear water, sparkling beaches, and some of the best shopping in the Caribbean balance out the negatives of the rather plain terrain.
Cruise Ship Port of Call
Cruise ships stopping over at Grand Cayman anchor in the harbor and use local boats (tenders) to take guests ashore at George Town, the capital. This makes the visit a little more difficult than on the islands where you can just walk ashore from the gangway, but most agree it's worth the effort to go ashore. The queue to go ashore moves quickly because the tenders are larger ones.
There's quite a bit to do in George Town. You can catch a glass-bottom boat tour, taste rum at a distillery tour, peruse the art galleries, and shop the duty-free shops. Foodies can savor Caribbean food at one of the local eateries or explore the
Farmers’ Market on Huldah Avenue, open Monday through Saturday.
Cayman Islands National Museum, in one of the town's remaining 19th-century buildings, is also located here and houses items from the area's maritime history as well as art and natural history specimens.
Grand Cayman has some lovely beaches, some very close to where the tender drops cruise passengers off. Those arriving by ship often take an organized excursion to one of the beaches like Tiki Beach, which is part of the Seven Mile Beach area, or you can take a taxi from the tender pier. Although the island is flat and makes walking easy, Tiki Beach is about four miles from the capital city of George Town where the ships dock, so walking could use up much of your free time.
Tours and Excursions
With the gorgeous water surrounding Grand Cayman, it's not surprising that snorkeling tours are a great option.
One of the most popular shore excursions in the whole Caribbean is on Grand Cayman. Swimming with stingrays at Stingray City is popular with all ages. From 30 to 100 stingrays frequent the quiet waters of shallow North Sound, which is located about two miles east of the northwestern tip of Grand Cayman. Visitors to the area can swim or snorkel in the midst of these gentle creatures. An alternate shore excursion for those who don't want to get wet allows you to see the stingrays from a glass bottom boat.
There are also island tours. One island excursion stops at the Cayman Turtle Farm, the only commercial sea turtle nursery in the world. It also stops at Hell, a post office in the middle of a large rock formation. The black limestone formations that can be seen poking out from the foliage, were created by salt and lime deposits over 24 million years. It's fun to see the formations and send a postcard back home with that postmark!
Grand Cayman is also one Caribbean location where you can ride on a semi-submarine. This shore excursion also gives participants the opportunity to see the undersea area around Grand Cayman.
Kayaking along the sensitive coastal area enables participants to see the extensive mangrove communities, shallow seagrass beds, and coral reefs while getting some exercise. What a tranquil way to see the varied coastal ecosystems of Grand Cayman!