Grand Cayman (Photo:Jo Ann Snover/Shutterstock)
4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Cruise Critic Staff

Port of Grand Cayman

Imagine the stereotypical cruise port -- one with white-sand beaches, a plethora of duty-free shops selling jewels and liquor, and de rigueur water activities like snorkeling and scuba -- and Grand Cayman will likely come to mind. The cliche might just be based on the destination, with its lovely Seven Mile Beach, George Town's retail center and plenty of sites for diving, snorkeling and other water sports. Grand Cayman also celebrates marine life at Stingray City and the Cayman Turtle Farm, and even offers a twist on island paradise with the town of Hell (THE place from which to send the quintessential kitschy postcard).

Yet the cliche does have a negative side -- the crowds. It's not unusual to find five mega-ships (we're told there's been up to nine) docked in the harbor at the same time, which makes the tendering process slower than usual and the downtown streets jam-packed. (Building a cruise pier at which ships could berth is oft discussed, but it's never gone beyond the "pre-planning" stage.) The constant influx of cruise passengers keeps the waterfront restaurants bustling, so lunch in port is never a cheap affair. A stroll along the beach quickly turns into an obstacle course of sunbathing tourists, sandy children and water sports vendors.

Visitors have two choices -- embrace the crowds and touristy places with a laid-back island mindset, or escape them. Secluded beaches, like Cayman Kai or Rum Point, are a cab ride away, and even Seven Mile Beach has its less crowded spots. A mall at Governors Square offers designer clothes, housewares and even a healthy cafe for a refreshing change from shell necklaces and overpriced seafood. And the seemingly endless stretches of sea never feel too congested when you're swimming peacefully above coral formations.

About Grand Cayman


Pro

Cruisers will find a pleasant mix of commercial kitsch and off-the-beaten-path fun

Con

Grand Cayman can be crowded, with many mega-ships often docking on the same day

Bottom Line

This is a stereotypical Caribbean port; think beaches, shopping and big-box chain restaurants


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Good to Know

Be cautious as you walk along Harbour Drive and Church Street, which only have sidewalks on one side of the street at some places. And, just as drivers need to heed left-side driving rules, pedestrians should stay alert for cars.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

Local currency is the Cayman Island dollar (visit xe.com for current rates), but U.S. dollars are also accepted throughout the island. The Cayman Islands are an international banking center, so finding a financial institution is not difficult. There are ATMs throughout downtown George Town.

Language

English is the official language.

Shopping

The Caymans are known for being the jewelry capital of the Caribbean, with watches and diamonds among the most popular purchases. For a cheaper buy, Tortuga Rum Company (S. Church Street and various other locations) makes incredible rum cakes. You can sample the different flavors before buying.

The eclectic shopping in George Town includes handcrafted jewelry, antiques, salvaged coins and old maps -- as well as the expected duty-free buys. Cardinal Avenue is the main shopping street. On it, you'll find Kirk Freeport (345-623-7477; open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.) a terrific duty-free choice, with Swiss watches, fine china and crystal. The Jewelry Center offers designer baubles. At the Galleria Plaza (West Bay Road), a number of shops sell duty-free stuff. Nearby, is Caymania Duty Free (7 Main Street, 354-949-7972; George Town), one of the island's best-known duty-free shops for perfumes, cosmetics and gemstones.

--Updated by Elissa Leibowitz Poma, Cruise Critic contributor, and Brittany Chrusciel, Cruise Critic Associate Editor