Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A day in port in Grand Cayman with the Carnival Freedom

Those of us cruising on the Carnival Freedom this week just pulled out of port in Grand Cayman after a sunny warm day here. Grand Cayman is a bit dull for my taste, but it does have one sparkling attraction, which I enjoyed this morning: Stingray City.

Most visitors to Grand Cayman end up on this shallow sandbar at one point or another, or at least should: dozens of extremely tame stingrays hang out here waiting for humans to show up in hopes of being fed chopped up squid. When I was there today, there were about six tour boats all pointing toward the center of the sand bar, disgorging tourists in snorkeling gear eager (or in some cases reluctant) to swim with, feed, and touch or kiss the stingrays.

The boat guides hold up a stingray so that each tourist can have his or her picture taken stroking or kissing one of the loveable beasts. But the real fun is having a ray or two or three swim right up to you and take food out of your hand, or, in some cases, “kissing” you (I’m told they like the taste of salt from your skin). A number of passengers weren’t at all sure they enjoyed this experience and practically jumped out of the water when a ray snuggled up to them, but for the most part everyone thought it was great sport.

Those passengers who didn’t go to Stingray City mostly walked around the capital, George Town, and shopped for jewelry and other island items, and perhaps hung out a bit at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville or Senor Frog’s. This is a tender port, where all ships are connected to port by small boats, or tenders, and to catch the ship to Jamaica one had to be on a return tender no later than 3:45 pm.

I heard that one couple did not make the ship after our Cozumel port stop two days ago – even though they had till 9:45 pm. No doubt a few too many margaritas at Margaritaville (it’s a chain). They were to rejoin the ship after flying to Grand Cayman via Miami. Note to self: do not miss ship! No stingray is so cuddly as to warrant having to fly to Jamaica at my own expense. At least none that I’ve met so far.

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