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queenofcruzin 02-22-2010 08:44 AM

I just got back from a cruise and we visited Grand Cayman. I have been there 5 times and stayed once at the Hyatt on a work vacation prize trip. I love Grand Cayman, it is a beautiful island, clean, but expensive. I have done the Sting Rays Excursion 3 other times and love it but have learned what I want, and what I don't want. I have booked with the cruise lines the 3 other times and have had a wonderful time, but on big boats, with many people. This time I did alot of research and chose "Stingray Sailing," it was one of the best choices I ever made, and I wanted to share it. We paid $45 each for this excursion, and it is worth double. Chip picked us up at our pier Spotts, which was different from the three other ships in port that day. When I noticed this, the ship didn't notify us, I just looked at my reservation that I had printed out and it said they would have a representative there to meet us. There were about 25 people screaming with signs, but we easily found Chip and his sign. They had a print out of everyone from our ship, about 12 people, took attendance and we got on an air-conditioned bus, very clean and comfortable. He let us know his wife Michelle had gathered the group at the other port in downtown Grand Cayman at the Royal Watler Terminal, we stopped in a parking lot picked up about 12 other people and were on our way, his wife Michelle took over the driving and continued the mini tour of Grand Cayman telling us about the places we were passing and the beaches too. We pulled up at the pier and say our 43 foot sailing boat called the "Far
Tortuga." The boat is rated for 40 some people, but we only had 24 and it was wonderful. Lots of space for everyone ! Michelle introduced us to Mark, our guide and photographer, and Chip arrived as we all were getting on board, and we sailed. If you have ever waited around for a ship excursion, this is just the best other option. Small amount of people, no waiting around, getting in and out of the water is no problem, very relaxing. Hard to explain, but so different, and SO MUCH BETTER. Ship excursions try and scare you that they make sure you get back to the ship, guarantee it. But Chip and Michelle told us a story about helping another boat who got stranded and I know they would have help if they needed it. Chip was born on Grand Cayman, has lived his whole life there, Mark went to elementary school with him, and Michelle came on vacation, met and married Chip, and have two small children together. They also told stories of Hurricane Ivan, and how the island was devastated, and is recovering. You felt like you were chatting with friends, and having a sail with family. When we arrived at StingRay City, there were about 10 other boats there, hundreds of people. We anchored, and Mark explained about the Stingrays with a cute little stuffed Stingray, and we jumped or climbed into the water. As usual, many people were initially very scared and there is always alot of screaming as the Stingrays start welcoming you. Mark had a special Stingray he called Isabelle and she loved him. Mark explained how to hold the Stingray, there was a young girl who was very natural with the Stingray and she held her first. I think he could see I was comfortable too, and he let me hold her next. It is something everyone should experience at least once and I can't get enough ! She was so soft, about 6 feet across and PREGNANT ! Mark showed us her little bump, and the markings she had, and how he recognized her. They had squid and we got chance to feed them, the Stingrays love the squid and many crowd around and it is so wonderful to be surrounded by these graceful creatures. Everyone got a chance to hold her, once people got calmed down, he took pictures of us, we had brought an underwater camera, as did many others and the pictures are amazing. We spent about 45 minutes there and then sailed a little ways away to snorkel for about 30 minutes, they provided the equipment, some instruction, and we were on our way. They spent more time with some people who weren't as comfortable snorkeling, but it seemed like most had snorkeled often. It was windy that day, and the current was strong, my husband had some problems snorkeling. The coral was beautiful and brightly colored fish were all over. We climbed back in the boat, and Mark was downloading our pictures. He put a slideshow on his computer right there as we were anchored, AMAZING ! Very low key they offered pictures for sale, and we bought 5 for $30. Obviously very profitable, he just downloaded our pictures on a disc to take home with us. But we thought it was money well spent. They also sold beer, and provided us with water and cut up some fruit for us to munch on. We sailed back to the pier, climbed off the boat onto the bus and they took us back to our pier. We got another great informational tour on the way back about Grand Cayman. They offered to drop anyone off along 7 Mile Beach, but we were all pretty tuckered out. Plus we are cruise people and we hadnít really ate in 5+ hours ! LOL ! Sorry this is so long, but I really wanted to let everyone know how great this experience was, and how highly I recommend these wonderful people. Again Stingray Sailing !! Happy to answer any questions.

Jim C. 02-22-2010 09:15 AM

There are cases where the threat of "not getting back to the ship if something happens" is a legitimate concern. But I don't think it applies to Grand Cayman (and for any other smaller ports) Assuming it was a transportation problem (i.e. the bus breaks down) it would not be a big deal. There are not too many places you could be broke down where you would not be able to taxi back to the pier. Same applies with Cozumel and many of the other islands. Its going to places like Tulum where you are bussed 1 hour away where you could be in trouble.

queenofcruzin 02-22-2010 10:04 AM

I agree there are places I wouldn't risk it either, and I agree that Grand Cayman isn't one of them. I have been very happy with cruise excursions, just not the hurry up and wait portion, which takes TOO long. If it wasn't something I was dying to do, I usually just go to a nice hotel or beach.

Jim C. 02-22-2010 11:19 AM

I agree totally. We have have been as many excursions on our own as we can. Thanks for the tip on GC.. we love seeing the stingrays and that sounds like a nice way of doing it.

Dwayne 02-22-2010 02:41 PM

Thanks Queen, for the wonderful report! That sounds like the type of excursion I'd like to do next time.


queenofcruzin 02-22-2010 02:51 PM

Thanks Dwayne, that's why I was so excited to tell everyone.

On the Radiance both private tours got cancelled due to bad weather, so I was excited to report on a good, reputable company.

hannibal 02-23-2010 07:34 AM

I will be there next Thursday, woo hoo.

peter l 02-23-2010 11:52 AM

Thank you Queenofcruzin for the info on your sail/snorkel..We have done the sting rays once before and the last time we were there spent 1/2 the day on seven mile beach which was a nice quiet change from all the boats and people at the the sting ray sites. Although, with only 24 people on your trip it sounds like something I would consider next time there.


janfred 02-23-2010 03:16 PM

Were the Stingrays in a caged in area or free to go where ever? Reason I ask is that I am not going to The Caymans but in Nassau they have a Stingray excursion at Black Beards Cay and I know they are in a caged area and some people said that they did not like that they were not in the wild free to come and go...I can understand that. Just trying to think if I want to try that. It looks like from pictures you are right on shore in knee deep water playing with them. What do you think??

Jim C. 02-23-2010 05:51 PM

janfred- I'm not QOC but I can answer your question. The stingrays at Stingray City in Grand Cayman are free to come and go. You sail/boat out to a sandbar, the stingray have been "trained" over the years to come there expecting easy food. So they are always there and they are "wild" with respect that they are there of their own choosing, but they have been conditioned over the years to expect to be fed and not to be afraid of the humans. You walk around with them and hand feed them (water is waste deep). I agree that locking them up takes something away from the experience.

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