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Two sides of Grand Cayman

SmarterTravel

Grand Cayman is one of those ports that gives Caribbean cruising a bad name. Oh, the island itself is gorgeous with terrific beaches, snorkeling, and shopping. It’s just that there are often five or six ships disgorging passengers on any given day. George Town and the nearby beaches get packed with tourists, and it takes away from the authentic tropical island experience.

Today, I embraced both the quiet and crazy sides of Grand Cayman. My first goal was to find an empty spot of beach so I could enjoy the return of the sun. I wanted to travel to Rum Point on the northern side of the island in the hopes that it would be less crowded. But when I learned the cab ride would be $75 each way, I quickly went to Plan B.

Plan B was Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman’s most popular stretch of sand. It deserves its fame because the sand is impressively soft and clean and the water is perfectly turquoise and crystal clear. The cab let my friend and me out at the Sea Grape area, which at 10:30 a.m. was already packed with sunbathers and vendors. No worries—we took off our sandals and trekked along the beach until we had distanced ourselves from everyone else. Only then did we look for a shady spot and lay out.

When we got hot and hungry, we headed back to George Town for lunch. Our cab dropped us off in the parking lot of Margaritaville so we dutifully followed the other cruisers into the chain restaurant for lunch. Surrounded by passengers from Carnival, Costa, and NCL, we ate overpriced sandwiches and watched the other diners compete for free drinks. Their challenges included chugging beer as fast as possible and popping balloons by pressing their bodies together with the balloon in between. It was rowdy and a bit raunchy and a far cry from our idyllic respite on the beach. But it proved that whether you embrace the crowds or run from them, you can still have a good old time in this oft-visited port-of-call.

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