Grand Cayman seemingly has everything I usually look for in an island destination: beautiful beaches, great food, world class diving and snorkeling, not to mention plenty of non-stop flights from NYC. We never actually booked a trip to Grand Cayman, though, because I thought the island’s only real luxury option, the Ritz Carlton, Grand Cayman, might be past its prime. Elaine M., a mycationer whose impeccable luxury travel taste I always trust, convinced me the newly renovated Ritz is definitely worth another look. Thanks to Elaine for sharing her detailed notes from her family of five’s recent trip to Grand Cayman.
Although open since 2006, the 144-acre Ritz Carlton, Grand Cayman recently renovated all of its 365 spacious rooms to include modern conveniences and comforts. While a big resort, service throughout the resort is impeccable. Room Tip: Request a room on the 3rd floor if staying on the resort side (as opposed to the ocean side) in order to have easy access to the enclosed bridge to the beach (much better then waiting for the always crowded elevator). If possible, book one of the beautifully renovated Club Level rooms. At the right price, the Ritz’s Clubs can actually offer great value due to their abundant selection of breakfast items, snacks, hors d’oeuvres, beverages, cocktails and desserts (no surprise my kids are big club floor fans). The property features two pools, an oceanfront Jacuzzi and the new Starfish Cay water park for little kids (don’t be surprised if your older kids also want to give it a try at least once). The Ritz is perfectly located along the white sands of Seven Mile Beach so water sports and/or relaxing at the beach are a must! Speaking of relaxing, the stunning La Prairie 20,000-square-foot Silver Rain Spa is definitely worth a visit (or two). Excellent selection of treatments in luxurious surroundings. Love that you can select the music of your choice for your treatment (why don’t all spas do that?) Make sure you go early for your treatment to enjoy the steam, sauna and Jacuzzi. Call in advance to make appointments at your preferred times over busy vacation weeks. The resort also features a large, state-of-the art fitness facility open daily from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. This Ritz is an excellent option for families, and unlike most hotels’ kids’ clubs, Ambassadors of the Environment created by Jean-Michel Cousteau (yes, from that Cousteau family), offers unique activities for kids of all ages and their families. Choices for younger guests include introductory snorkeling, cooking classes or interactive learning activities with frogs, turtles and/or iguanas. Teens and tweens can try more challenging snorkeling and kayaking options, as well as photography and video classes. Families can also participate in many of these activities together (Elaine highly recommends the night photography snorkel). Don’t forget to book club activities before arrival because the more popular options sell out during busy vacation weeks.
Unlike other Caribbean islands, Grand Cayman offers many delicious dining options for both foodies and families alike. The Ritz offers six restaurants, most notably Blue, the AAA Five Diamond seafood restaurant created by Eric Ripert of New York City’s Le Bernandin fame. While delicious and perfect for a special occasion, Elaine notes that Blue is probably not the best option for most families. The Ritz also offers Andiamo (Italian with limited menu; better options off property but works well for first night after traveling); Seven (contemporary steakhouse; also serves breakfast); Tikun (sushi restaurant located in the lobby; good food but limited selection); and Bar Jack (pool or beachside lunch option; preferable to order from your beach chairs during busy holiday weeks). Within walking distance of the Ritz, Elaine recommends both Luca (contemporary, waterfront Italian) and Agua (wide selection of seafood and Italian specialities). Other Grand Cayman favorites include: Calypso Grill (fresh seafood in a casual, waterfront setting; don’t miss the sticky toffee pudding for dessert); Ragazzi (great homemade pizzas; sister restaurant of Luca); Edoardo’s (casual Italian with children’s menu); Casanova (charming Italian waterfront in Georgetown); and Ristorante Papagallo (good selection; one of the few options open on Christmas). Reservations are recommended for most of these restaurants during busy vacation weeks (many of them are on Open Table).
Grand Cayman is well known as a world class scuba diving and snorkeling destination. Stingray City is a must-do experience (even for the most squeamish) that allows you to snorkel among hundreds of sting rays in three-foot crystal clear water. Snorkel and scuba diving expeditions can be arranged through the Ritz concierge (first time divers can be certified on site). Elaine recommends Oh Boy Private Charters for private snorkeling and deep sea fishing trips. Oh Boy provides round trip transportation from the Ritz as well as all the equipment you need while on the boat. The Ritz provides free snorkel equipment, and kayaks, stand up paddle boards and water bikes are available for rent. Blue Tip is the Greg Norman private nine hole golf course on property. Although not very challenging, the course is in excellent condition and can provide a welcome diversion if you get sick of the beach. The tennis facility features three red clay and two hard courts and is staffed by famous coach Nick Bollettieri. Book instructors in advance during busy holiday weeks.
The Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman’s combination of world class service, luxurious accommodations, stunning surroundings and excellent dining options is pretty hard to beat, especially for families.
Oh Ritz Carlton, why do you insist on charging an insulting $70 nightly “resort fee”? I know guests can’t exactly “skip” paying this fee but it’s worth a try – after all, hotel chains like the Ritz eventually need to get the message that luxury travelers expect (no, demand) high speed Wi-Fi, parking and use of resort facilities to be included in their already high room rate.