· In Grand Cayman, when we got off the boat, we literally saw one row of hawkers offering tours for $40, followed immediately – like 5 feet -- behind them by a second row offering the same for $20. We hooked up with 2 other couples from the ship on the spur of the moment and negotiated for a van tour for two hours for $20 per person. I believe the Carnival excursion rate was about 3x that.
· We recommend looking for Ursula (pronounced UrSOOLa), who is hard to miss as a 68 year old Scottish-Jamaican lady who’s a lifelong native and will drive you around in her van and give you the local’s version of the tour. Of course, she’ll take you to the stores her friends own, but that’s how life in the islands works.
In Calica: · We strongly recommend Fernando Hernandez’s van service (firstname.lastname@example.org or tel. (044)984-114 5193. Don’t let the scary e mail address fool you; he is a very pleasant and quiet young man who took our group of 7 to Tulum and to the beach in his van for basically $25 per person, plus $10/hour per extra hour (we tipped him an extra $30). If this sounds like a lot, the Carnival package price was $90 per person (for the transportation component, $60). Fernando sat around and waited patiently while we cavorted and kept the AC in the van maxed out for us. He drove us to Tulum where we (my wife) also negotiated a guide (Miguel) for 45 minutes, trolley tickets, and entry for $14 per person. So our group of 6 adults and a child would have paid $630 total at the Carnival rate for this package, vs $ 350 ( $50 per person for a full day, including snorkel gear, but ex lunch drinks and tip) at the “get off the boat and talk to a human being nicely” rate. (The kicker would have been Xel-ha, which is now a $35 entry instead of $25 in 2004.)