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Grand Cayman - wonderful and always getting better. #154622
02/08/2018 12:39 AM
02/08/2018 12:39 AM
Joined: Feb 2010
Posts: 125
Columbia, SC, USA
DandM29212 Offline OP
Traveler
DandM29212  Offline OP
Traveler
Joined: Feb 2010
Posts: 125
Columbia, SC, USA
We've been increasingly going to St Martin over the years, but after Irma, we've decided to revisit some places we haven't been to for a while. We went to Grand Cayman in December for the Holidays, only our third visit in about 15 years. Loved it, again! Pros and cons, just like anyplace! A few comparisons to St Martin:

Some say it's more expensive in the Caymans. IMHO, that largely depends on the traveler and how you plan for it. In looking at VRBO, Expedia, et al, Seven Mile Beach resorts are expensive and the beach quite crowded, but the rest of Grand Cayman is not. Staying on Seven Mile and complaining about lodging prices is kinda silly, though. It's sort of like staying at La Samanna on SXM and saying St Martin is expensive. We stayed on the West End near the Turtle Farm, 5 minutes from Seven Mile but much more residential, more $ reasonable, and far calmer and less packed than the Seven Mile beach area. Our villa there was about the same features and cost as a comparable Orient Bay villa. Other VRBO and Homeaway condos we looked at were comparable.

As far as crowded, In the middle of Seven Mile beach - not pretty - think Orient with 5 big cruise ships in port! For the beaches we went to around the island and even the northern half of Seven Mile (within a walking distance of Cemetery Beach) - maybe we could count 30-40 couples within eyesight. We thought all the beaches, snorkeling, diving, bars, etc all around the island weren't crowded at all! Maybe some people find Seven Mile crowded and generalize that to the island, but ya can't evaluate New York State by visiting New York City, right?

Restaurants are slightly more expensive but our best dining out experiences there were generally on par with Grand Case. One big thing, though, is that some people may get sticker shock at first because an 18% tip is already included in the bill and think "OMG, meals are expensive here!", when really the bill is the same after tips are included. Actually, I certainly appreciated the clarity and uniformity of that tipping practice as compared to the French Side "guessing game" in SXM. (Everyplace we ate out gave us an itemized bill showing local currency charges, 18% tip, total, exchange rate and billed USD amount, along with the charge card receipt.) We also ate at some local restaurants and had some great meals at prices we'd pay at home, but with AMAZING sunset or bay views! We had some happy hour and evening drinks and entertainment out - same price as any other island. We also ate several meals in the villa and the grocery stores were priced the same as other islands. (It sure is fun shopping in island grocery stores!!). If one stayed at a hotel and had to eat every meal out, sure, it'll be expensive! (not to mention, for me, a huge waste of time).

In general, IMHO again, Grand Cayman is more upscale than SXM, maybe considerably. In addition, the overall environment makes one feel FAR safer than SXM, so much so that my wife expressed reservations about ever going back to SXM. (LOL, no problem, I'll book the tickets! On the other hand, we don't go out at night nearly as often in SXM as we used to - and we all have to admit SXM isn't what it was even 5 years ago in that respect.) Also, imagine nice roads with respectful drivers and no cyclists "driving" crazy or doing wheelies in the middle of traffic or Grand Case while you're dining at a great restaurant.

The thing, though, isn't to get into a island to island comparison. We really like all islands for different reasons and I think everyone should appreciate each place they visit for what it offers - no two places are the same. We love the diving around Grand Cayman. We loved all the boating activities that Grand Cayman had to offer. We appreciated how organized Christmas activities were as well as all the Christmas decorations. We appreciated how they're building new roads and other infrastructure! We loved the diversity of Grand Cayman's West End versus East End, just like SXM Dutch vs French sides. Gotta say, for sure, Grand Cayman's airport sucks! At least improvements are under construction, but boy, SXM's Princess Juliana has few equals! With all the countless examples of the worst government possible and total lack of leadership in SXM, how did that EVER get built???

In SXM, we love Grand Case, Orient, Club O, Happy Bay, on and on - I think most people will say that nudies are a very inclusive and friendly group and we love that aspect of SXM as much as the friends we've made there over the years. I think that's one feature about St Martin that draws a very, very loyal contingent all the time! We love Mardi Tuesdays in Grand Case. I could write many other great features about both islands, as well as St John, BVI's, Hawaii, Guadaloupe, etc, etc., but it all boils down to your own needs, interests, and subjectivity. Saying someplace is better than another is only right for that person. If there were a "best island", everyone would flock there and avoid everywhere else, right? For us, while we love SXM, we also appreciate the variety and beauty of what other islands offer too, different from those who prefer to go back to the same place / ("their own best place"!) every year for their vacations. Different things for different people, right?

Everyone's entitled to their own opinions, but perhaps we should all be less opinionated about them, more open minded, and appreciate everyone and everywhere a little more - just like the U.S. in general and in particular!!




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Re: Grand Cayman - wonderful and always getting better. [Re: DandM29212] #155411
02/21/2018 08:31 PM
02/21/2018 08:31 PM
Joined: Jul 2008
Posts: 713
Tennessee
K
KayMike Offline
Traveler
KayMike  Offline
Traveler
K
Joined: Jul 2008
Posts: 713
Tennessee
A really good commentary!! Lots of people ask me which island or which cruise line I like best & I always say this: Thats like asking me which grandchild (of 8) I like best -- I love them all ...each have similarities and each have different interests & different personalities.....same with traveling!
We too found GC to feel (& actually is) much safer than SXM. Because GC is a flat island, the topography looks much different than SXM. I think people have more pride of their personal property in GC.
GC was hit by a very bad destructive hurricane in 2005 - Ivan. We were to fly there the very day that it hit! The place we were to stay in on East End had about 4 feet of sand in 1st floor units after the water drained away & the building had to be torn down & rebuilt. The condo bulding we had stayed in 2x on 7 Mile beach near Marriott was nearly destroyed in the storm & had to be torn down & rebuilt too. We stopped there on a cruise about 3 months after the hurricane, & the vegetation was coming back. Not sure if you were aware of this storm 10 years ago..... Hopefully in 10 years SXM & especially the Orient area will look great!!


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Re: Grand Cayman - wonderful and always getting better. [Re: DandM29212] #156287
03/07/2018 05:45 PM
03/07/2018 05:45 PM
Joined: Jun 2009
Posts: 3,078
Portland, OR
jazzgal Offline
Traveler
jazzgal  Offline
Traveler
Joined: Jun 2009
Posts: 3,078
Portland, OR
Interesting report. Thanks for posting!


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