On Wednesday, we were up and about around 6:15am because we had to leave early for our kayaking and snorkeling excursion. We watched from our balcony as our ship approached George Town amid the muddled sunrise. We spotted a Carnival cruise boat in the distance. It was kind of eerie watching it quietly get closer and closer.
Here are some early morning pictures of the Solarium (adult only pool and deck with the red lounge chairs) and the track above it that a few people were taking advantage of. The deck with the blue lounge chairs is the pool open for all ages.
The Carnival boat gaining on us! I was curious to know if it was the same one that left New Orleans when we did.
We stopped in the harbor because there are no cruise-ship sized docks in Grand Cayman. I'm not sure why...maybe it's too shallow? Little boats would come to the ship and get a group of people and take them all the way in to the island to a smaller dock. I learned this process is called tendering.
These pictures are taken right from our balcony.
This Carnival boat was Valor. We left port New Orleans with Elation. Not the same one. I did wonder, though, where Elation was headed and where Valor began.
As we headed to shore on the tendering boat, I spotted this "pirate" ship!
And wanted to snap a shot of our ship since we don't get to see the whole thing very often.
We found our excursion group and at 8:30am, we got on a bus and drove to the beach. On the drive there, we passed tall, fancy buildings and gated communities and compounds...as well as many high-end vehicles. It was clear that Grand Cayman is much better off economically than Jamaica. (And why wouldn't they be? This is where all off-shore bank accounts are, right?)
I could not believe it when I saw the name of our beach--Tiki Beach!! (For anyone who has watched the Backyardigans episode "Surf's Up"--they will know the significance of this).
We got fitted for fins, dumped our belongings in a locker, then jumped in our kayaks and went 20 minutes back down the shoreline toward our ship. I was in the front of the two-man kayak and took these pictures while Jared paddled.
I wanted a picture of the two of us in the kayak (with both our faces showing, not the bottom half of one and the top half of the other), but this was as good as it got.
Once we got to the appointed beach, we got our snorkeling stuff on and swam about 1/4 to 1/2 mile out and explored the reef.
The cool thing about our camera is that it could take pictures AND video underwater. Jared took, LOTS of pictures and several video segments.
Admittedly, this was fun, but I was mildly disappointed at how murky the water was and how non-vibrant the fish were. My family went to St. Thomas and St. John (the Virgin Islands) when I was 11 and the snorkeling was amazing there. I've heard the snorkeling is really great in the Caymans, so perhaps it was our location and the time of year. Don't get me wrong, it was really cool to snorkel and see through water 15+ feet deep and have all the fish swim around you. We also saw some concrete ruins near the edge of our allowed distance from the shore. I had just hoped for some more eye-catching colors of fish, coral and sea anemones.
This is a picture of the shore where our kayaks were. Notice the nice fancy hotel...
This fish was the most prevalent in our area. I wish I could remember the name of them. They remind me of the fish in "Finding Nemo" near the end of the movie when they create shapes of different things to try and cheer Dory up.
Looks almost like a white version of Nemo.
A pretty yellow fish.
There's a spiny something in the middle of this picture. I'm not sure if it's a sea urchin, but that would be my guess.
And here's a black and electric blue fish. The colors were out there, just in small quantities. I think the hazy green water is what made everything seem muted to me. Even still, there were some lovely treasures below the surface, you just had to look for them.
At one point, I was out near the guide...a kid who wasn't far removed from high school, if even that old. He had some bread and asked if I wanted to feed the fish. I said sure, so he gave me a piece. Like an idiot, I put my hand holding the bread in the water and in a split second, I had about 30 of those big silver fish swarming me. I screamed out loud because it startled me and of course dropped the bread. But the fish enjoyed it. I think the guide enjoyed my unexpected scare.
We snorkeled for a little over an hour and slowly the group congregated back on the beach by the kayaks.
After we kayaked back to our beginning point, we hung out on Tiki Beach until the next ride back to the port.
Jared tried to take a couple more pictures and that's when he realized the camera wasn't working. It came on, but appeared to have a black screen. My first reaction was "Oh no..." but I wasn't panicked or upset that our once in a lifetime pictures could quite possibly be totally lost.
I credit this feeling from a similar trial we experienced at the end of our visit to Denali National Park in Alaska five years earlier. http://www.jjcrew.blogspot.com/2008/09/alaska-day-10-back-to-anchorage.html
There wasn't anything we could do but say a prayer (or two or three) and wait. Jared did take the memory card out to see if we could salvage the pictures. So much for waterproof. We rinsed off in the showers there at Tiki Beach. Jared also changed his clothes and we had a Snickers ice cream bar while we waited for the bus to take us back. We even got sprinkled on by just a tiny bit of rain while we waited at the bus stop, but it was so inconsequential it was hardly worth mentioning.
Once we returned to the port, we did our souvenir shopping. I have to say that I didn't like the way the shopping was set up in George Town. It seemed to be all over, as opposed to just in one concentrated area. In addition, there wasn't any particular thing that jumped out at us that had a Cayman flair to it. So for someone who doesn't like to shop anyway, it was harder for me to decide what to get our peeps back home. After quite a bit of time, we finally got some bamboo towels for my parents, handmade shell ornaments for the kids, a bib for JJ, a sweatshirt for me (which is now too small...get bigger sizes!), hot sauces for Jared, bookmarks for Jake and Cooper and a bracelet for Karcyn. Calvin would get the black pirate shirt made out of bamboo that I "won" at the shopping show on the ship.
The first thing we did when we were back on the ship was make a beeline for the photography area and put the card into a digital printer/CD burner to see if we could view them. ALL the pictures were there and safe. There was a photo guy manning the gear and at our request, he burned them onto a disc for us. It was $30, but we didn't want to take any more chances. Phew...what a blessing that was!
We rested up for dinner and then met our table mates, Jen, Todd, and Jesse. Jenney was getting a massage so she couldn't join us. But to Jesse, she was there in spirit. (Jesse reminded us of Deeks from NCIS: LA).
We all decided to exchange email addresses and share pictures when we got home. Before dessert, we got a fun musical show from our waiters and waitresses. There's our man, Eric, in the middle of this picture with Todd looking on. It was an impressive number considering all the different nationalities that were participating. I didn't realize singing was a job requirement. Maybe it's not, and if that's the case, that was a great performance!
After dinner, we came back to the room so Jared could get ready for his massage. He went for his appointment while I went down to deck 2 to pay for the CD of pictures that we couldn't pay for earlier that day. Then I went to email the kids. It was $18 for 27 minutes--I hoped. One gal in the library warned me that her mom had gotten on the day before and thought she had disconnected, but didn't really and racked up a horrendous bill for internet usage. I decided to risk it because I hoped the kids were behaving for my mom and if they weren't...I wanted to remind them of the importance of doing so--even from over two thousand miles away!