It’s All In A Day’s Fun: Georgetown, Grand Cayman
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
After being onboard Carnival Cruise Line’s newest vessel, Carnival Vista for the past four days, I’ve identified only one problem with the ship: there’s so much to do onboard that you’ll be tempted to just not go ashore at all.
That’s the situation I found myself in today, as Carnival Vista dropped anchor in the pristine waters off Georgetown, Grand Cayman.
A self-governing overseas British Territory, Grand Cayman is the largest and most populous of the Cayman Islands. Located south of Cuba and to the west of Jamaica, the capital of Georgetown has been a staple of Western Caribbean cruise itineraries for decades. Visitors are attracted by the country’s natural beauty and azure seas, while cruise lines find Georgetown to be convenient due to its proximity to other ports of call (Cozumel, Mexico is less than half a day’s sailing distance away).
While there have been calls for a deepwater pier to be constructed in Georgetown in recent years, passengers going ashore from Carnival Vista are doing so in the way that has always been done: by tender boat. And, on a busy day, cruise ships can easily outnumber the city’s population of 20,000.
Today, it’s just us and an old friend here: Pullmantur’s Monarch. You might know her better as Royal Caribbean’s former Monarch of the Seas. She’s looking good in her new blue-and-turquoise livery, but this once-famous megaliner is also looking quite small in 2017 compared with the massive Carnival Vista. How times have changed.
Mindful of the fact that ships are getting bigger, Carnival has designed a convenient system for tendering ashore aboard Carnival Vista – and it’s not so dissimilar from the one you may be familiar with.
If you’re on one of Carnival’s Shore Excursions, you’ll get to proceed ashore first. Most guests on excursions gathered themselves according to their tickets in the Reflections Restaurant on Deck 3, and were among the first folks to head ashore.
If you don’t have a Carnival excursion booked, you head to the Liquid Lounge on Deck 4 forward when you (and everyone with you) is ready to proceed ashore. Guests are then given a Tender Sticker, and guests are led down to Deck 0 to embark the local tenders as a group. You can start getting tender stickers as early as 8:00 am.
If you have no excursion booked (and no burning desire to head ashore), you can wait for the General Clearance announcement to be given. This usually happens around 10:00 am or thereabouts. Once the announcement is made, you no longer need to collect a Tender Sticker from the Liquid Lounge; you just proceed down to the embarkation platforms on Deck 0 and you’re good to go!
I did the latter, waltzing onto a tender mid-morning without a care in the world. This, after having breakfast in the most serene, quiet, and I’d even say ‘secret’ location on the ship: the Taste Bar on Deck 5. It’s proximity to the JavaBlue Café, which serves up coffee and pastries, doesn’t hurt, either.
Now, to be honest, I should have booked an excursion here. Georgetown doesn’t really offer much for the unprepared visitor, save for some shopping and a handful of cultural landmarks located near the pier. There is a small public beach near the pier (go out of the cruise terminal shopping area, turn left, and walk about 500 feet and you’ll see the signs), but it’s pretty modest in scale and has some very rocky surfaces you have to navigate. Beach-seekers are better off bartering for transportation to the famous Seven Mile Beach nearby, which is known for its soft coral sands.
After walking to the left – and then back to the right – of the cruise terminal, I figured the only thing to do was to fully assimilate. That’s right: I went to Margaritaville.
To be honest, I thought Margaritaville would be packed with my fellow guests. It wasn’t. That alone should probably qualify it for entry into Ripley’s, but I actually had an enjoyable time. It was hot out and I was overheating, so the idea of having a nice local beer – which Margaritaville did have – proved to be irresistible. I try to taste the local beer wherever I go, and can now say I’ve officially had authentic Cayman Islands beer. The iguana sighting wasn’t bad, either.
In all, Georgetown felt very safe and comfortable to stroll around on-foot. No one hassled me, and in fact, once I left the chaos of the cruise terminal area (it was total chaos), my visit improved immensely. On my next time here, however, I’ll be budgeting for a shore excursion to see more of the island.
I arrived back at the ship before the bulk of my fellow guests, who were all still ashore. A quick burrito at the BlueIguana Cantina on Deck 10 was just what the Doctor ordered, and I got to thinking about what to take advantage of. And I decided on the SkyRide.