International Travel


Almost to a person, the response was the same:  “You’re going to the Cayman Islands – you must be taking a bunch of cash to hide!”  Wouldn’t that be just dandy .. Yes, it is well known that people use this tax haven, the fifth largest banking center in the world(!), to stash their cash.  But I’m here for another reason: to spend mine plus enjoy a spectacular resort … 
Hotel website photo … too good to be true?



My photo — happily it is just as gorgeous (if not more) in person — 


The only thing “wrong” with this story is how long it took to get here.  I don’t mean the flight from LA-Miami-Grand Cayman.  I’m talking about the fact that 10 years ago we were talking about a visit here.  We were at the Ritz Carlton in Cancun when this hotel was relatively new and thought it would be great for a future trip.  Sadly the property had just been hit very hard by Hurricane Ivan and was closed for the next year.  Over the ensuing years, our travel was focused on the big spring trip (multiple countries & constantly moving about); which is a completely different experience.
It was only last year that our “resort plan” was made:  that is to visit a beach resort every November as part of our annual travels now that the kiddies are grown.  It is a great time of year to travel:  the hubby’s tax deadlines are done, the World Series is over, it is the end of the rainy season but the low rates are still in place, and the crowds are nowhere to be found! Winner on all counts.   
The first of these trips was to Riviera Maya, south of Cancun, which is just gorgeous.  My goal then was the same as it is now: to walk on white sand that feels like Superfine Sugar (all you bakers can relate); sort of melts around your feet and isn’t too hot.  Next is have the clearest water possible. Add in a great hotel and restaurants … pretty much everything else falls into place. But first, where exactly are the Cayman Islands???   
Those of us traveling from the west coast can get to the Caymans either by stopping in Dallas or Houston, but more likely Miami.  Other than a really long layover, getting to the islands was pretty easy but still takes the better part of a day from the west; hence the reason so many left coasters opt for Hawaii. For my money, the waters in the Caribbean are  pretty hard to beat.  

Fun fact about this particular flight.  In observing the frequent flier “rule of thumb” to save miles for international flights, I opted to fly coach but pay extra for the best seats in that category.  That was money well spent. I was really surprised at just how pleasant and roomy the flight was, with plenty of legroom and zero airline nightmares! What a pleasure … the second flight was your typical knees-to-nose, but fortunately it was just over an hour. 

Another rule of thumb I attempt to observe is avoiding hotels with more than 200 guest rooms.  Larger hotels seem impersonal (for obvious reasons), and those long hallways seem dreary.  Credit to this Ritz Carlton, which is 400+ rooms, but nevertheless is a 5-star gorgeous property with excellent service.  A bonus was being able use RC gift travel cards (through Amex Platinum points) and a 5th night free with the stay. A quick room change after the first night put us steps away from the beach in larger quarters and minus the hallways so all is well in Grand Cayman!  

The daily agenda is a simple one:  morning workout followed by breakfast followed by sitting either poolside or at the beach with music and reading.  If the goal of this type of trip is R&R, then not much else is required.  When it gets too hot, then the pool or ocean is the answer.  A variety of activities are provided by the hotel at the beach — floating tables & chairs with drink-holders, a giant water mo-ped (the hubby vetoed, citing being on vacation), kayaks, paddle-boards, etc.  For me just walking along this amazing stretch was enough.  And if it weren’t for the mosquitoes (dubbed “no see-um’s” because you literally can’t) that seemed resistant to the repellent and resulted in bites the size of quarters, it was just glorious.  Small price to pay.

One of two pools here
Mo-ped built for two 


Floating tables with shade
Healthy (as well as delicious) lunch


Our home for the day


Wish I could take credit for this 


I could get used to this!


Delicious local catch enjoyed at Ortanique


How nice not feeling guilty about the water .. (Californians can relate)



Nothing like a mid-day shower to clear the beach. I took refuge in order to protect the camera while on a walk as the downpour ensued. The rains come and go fairly quickly and then clear up whatever humidity there is (VERY little — another plus). Next post: my review of the La Prairie Spa, our visit to Stingray City, and more food pix … !