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Ahoy mateys!

It’s almost time for one of our favorite events of the year: Pirates Week. This unique, fun-filled festival is coming back to Grand Cayman November 7-11, and we couldn’t be more excited! Get ready to experience a family-friendly tradition full of spectacle, delicious food, and the culture of the Cayman Islands.

What you need to know

Pirates Week is a 42-year tradition of the Cayman Islands that allows visitors to immerse themselves in a little history, a little pageantry, and a whole lot of culture and fun. The highlight of the week is when the pirates invade Pig Sty Bay, riding into George Town harbor on authentic pirate vessels in order to take hostages and cause chaos, all in the spirit of good ol’ piratey fun. The pirates celebrate their invasion with a colorful parade of ships and entertainers and a fireworks display.



Throughout the week, celebrate local Caymanian cuisine with more than 50 vendors serving favorite local dishes like jerk chicken and turtle soup. You can also take some time to peruse the shops of local artisans and collect some “booty” for your friends and family.

Events to attend

Pirates Week Happy Hour and Kick-Off Party, November 7

Start Pirates Week off right with a happy hour and beach bash. Local bands will be playing so you can dance the night away. You can wear your normal beach attire, or if you want to go all out, we're sure a faux parrot on your shoulder or an eye patch wouldn't be discouraged! ;) 

Food Festival, Every day

Starting November 8, enjoy Caymanian favorites at the Pirates Festival Food Festival. Dozens of vendors are ready to serve up the best grub, offering so many options that you (and your kiddos) are sure to find something you'll love.

Pirates Landing and Parade, November 9

The highlight of the week is the Pirates Landing on Pig Sty Bay. Before they land, marvel in street acts, acrobats, and other local performers who are sure to blow you away with their incredible talents. Then witness an event unlike any other as authentic pirate vessels drop local pirate gangs onshore to cause mischief and mayhem aplenty. A battle will ensue and who knows who will claim victory. After they invade, the buccaneers and locals alike will parade through the streets, ready to show off their exquisite floats, costumes, and theatrical performances. You won't want to miss a moment!

Turtle Release, November 10

To further celebrate the wonders Cayman has to offer, the Cayman Turtle Centre will release baby and rehabilitated turtles into the wild with the help of a few locals. This is a rare occasion few will get to witness in their lifetime. Since this program began in 1980, 30,000 turtles have been released. This year is set to be another celebration of one of Cayman's most-loved treasures.

Illumination Night Parade, November 11

Pirate Week ends with a bang with the nighttime spectacular Illumination parade. Dozens of floats decorated in thousands of lights starring acrobats, pirates, and other performers will travel the streets of George Town ready to impress.

Share Your Tips!

We are counting down the days until Pirates Week and hope you'll be with us to celebrate. If you've been to Pirates Week before, tell us all about your experience and leave some tips we may have forgotten in the comments below!

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It’s one of Grand Cayman’s most popular destinations—Stingray City. Whether you’ve been coming to Cayman for decades or you’re planning your very first time, Stingray City offers unique joys to experience each and every visit. We've put together a rundown of the highlights to help you plan your next trip! 

The “Founding” of Stingray City

The sandbar now known as Stingray City initially attracted these alluring creatures when fishermen stopped their boats there after fishing excursions. While cleaning their catch of the day, the fishermen would often throw the scraps overboard. Before too long, stingrays began to show up to take advantage of all that free food! Over time, generation after generation of stingrays made the trek to the sandbar for a snack, and eventually they grew familiar and friendly with people. 

Nowadays it’s the tour groups who bring the tasty treats that keep the clan of stingrays coming back to visit each day. This year the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation completed their biannual “stingray census” at the sandbar, and they counted 115 stingrays—the largest number ever recorded!

All together there are two sandbars that make up Stingray City—one that is roughly three-feet deep and one that is much deeper. The shallow sandbar is the most popular destination since visitors can comfortably stand while they interact with the stingrays. The deeper sandbar offers the opportunity to dive and swim alongside the majestic creatures. If you’re a diver, you should definitely check it out to experience Stingray City from a whole new perspective.

The Full Experience

Located in North Sound, Stingray City tour-goers get to enjoy incredible open-ocean views on the boat ride there. There are usually several excursions and boats visiting Stingray City at any given time, making it a vibrant and fun atmosphere. The water in North Sound is crystal clear and stunning, so visitors will have a fantastic view of the stingrays as they swim by—some might even brush up against your leg! If you’re uncomfortable with wading out into the water, watching the rays swim by from the boat is still an unforgettable experience.

Before visitors exit their boats and enter the water, they are taught what we like to affectionately call “the Stingray City Shuffle.” Since stingrays swim and frequently rest close to the water’s sandy bottom, it is possible to accidentally injure a ray by stepping on it. While the residents of Stingray City are very friendly, stingrays do still have barbs on their tail that can sting. As a guest coming into the stingrays's home turf, it’s important to be as respectful and mindful of their natural environment as possible. Just keep an eye downwards and shuffle your feet along the sand to keep our swimming friends safe and happy!



If you visit with a tour guide who has experience on how to properly handle the stingrays, they'll help you get up close and personal with one of these incredible animals. Many long-time guides even recognize particular stingrays—several have names, so be sure to ask who you're meeting! You can gently pet the stingray's back while it's being held by a guide, and remember, if you give one a kiss, it's seven years of good luck! ;) Many tour companies also employ photographers who will take photos of you posing with the stingrays for an additional fee, so you won't have to worry about getting your personal camera wet. 

Tour Options

There are many ways to book a tour to Stingray City, from private options for small-groups to large tour excursions. Here are some more in-depth stories about a couple of our recommendations, if you’d like a place to get started on your research. 

Share Your Memories

We hope we've covered the basics of a trip to Stingray City and have you convinced it's a must-do item for your next trip. Have you already visited Stingray City? Do you have a favorite memory from your visit, or did we miss any tips you’d like to share? Are you a first-timer with some specific questions? Let us know in the comments below!

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We can all agree that Cayman is a beautiful island with so much history and such amazing sights and wildlife. The National Trust for the Cayman Islands was established to make sure none of that is lost. Founded in 1987, its mission is, "To preserve natural environments and places of historic significance for present and future generations of the Cayman Islands." We are so glad that they have upheld these values for over 30 years and continue their mission through education, conservation programs, and hosting events across the island.

Nadia Hardie is the Executive Director of the National Trust. We had the opportunity to sit down with Nadia to learn more about the amazing work of the National Trust. (And you can check out more about her personal story here!)

The National Trust is a non-profit organization comprised of over 800 members. Its members have access to all Trust activities, discounts at National Trust properties in many different countries, and other amazing perks and benefits. We were surprised at how affordable membership to the Trust is—it would be well worth the investment for both Cayman visitors and residents. We could write a whole book about the different programs and benefits provided by the National Trust, but we will highlight just a few here.

Animal Conservation Programs

In our conversation with Nadia, we learned that there are many programs that work to protect wildlife across Cayman. The Trust now maintains over 3,000 acres of protected areas to ensure that these plants and animals have an environment in which they can thrive.

It is obvious that she is passionate about the Trust’s mission. She was excited to tell us about some of the animals that the Trust works to protect. The Trust has identified certain animals that require more than just maintaining their natural environment. For animals like the Blue Iguana and several species of bats, the Trust engages in conservation programs.

The Resurgence of the Blue Iguana

Nadia explained to us the work that the Trust is doing on behalf of the Blue Iguanas (blues), a species endemic to Cayman. In the 1980s, Blue Iguanas were on the verge of extinction and had all but disappeared from the island. Nadia informed us that at one point, there were as few as 30 blues in existence. This sparked the National Trust to establish the Blue Iguana Recovery Program. (You can read our interview with Nick Ebanks, Operations Manager of the Recovery program, here.)

The program was founded in 1990 and has made significant progress towards the preservation of Blue Iguanas. As of 2018, there were 1,000 blues in the wild population! Not only does the Trust assist with the breeding process and reintroducing the animals into the wild, it also works with researchers to monitor the population. It is the hope of the Trust that one day this program will not be necessary and Blue Iguanas will be able to breed and support themselves.

Protecting the Bats

Bats are also protected in Cayman since they serve many crucial functions on island. There is a lot of misinformation about bats and, as a result, they have been killed and their habitats have been destroyed. The National Trust recognizes the importance of these creatures and helps to maintain the population. Nadia even told us about a “Bats and Bonfires” event where they have a bonfire, fire dancers, food, and presentations on bat conservation.

Along with providing education about bats, the Trust also puts up bat houses across the island and does bat removals from households (as long as it isn’t pup season). Nadia stated that during pup season (June-October), they are unable to do any removals because it would put young bats at risk of abandonment by their parents. Who knew there was so much to know about bats?

Fun with Cultural Education

We were excited to find out about the different types of National Trust events that are great for families and people of all ages. Some of these events include Breakfast with Iguanas, Bats and Bonfires, craft workshops, family fun days, and various wildlife and historical tours. They also host a “Little Explorers” morning every Wednesday morning with art projects and fun activities for the kids! The Trust does an amazing job of providing cultural education in a fun and engaging environment.

One of our favorite initiatives by the Trust is the Explorer Passport to Grand Cayman, which helps visitors and residents discover some amazing sites across the island. The Explorer Passport comes with a map, stickers, and pages with fun facts and information on different locations on island. This is a great opportunity to learn about Cayman culture and have fun while doing it. The Explorer Passports are available at the Nature Store in Dart Family Park for only $10! We are so excited about this that we even wrote a whole blog post about it!

Get Involved

Looking for ways to give back while in Cayman? The National Trust has many different volunteer opportunities for both residents and visitors of Cayman. If you and your family would want to coordinate a volunteer opportunity to give back, the Trust has plenty of opportunities for you to lend a hand—Nadia and the Trust would be excited to have you!

If you would like to coordinate a volunteer opportunity for your group or family, you can contact her at director@nationaltrust.org.ky or the Community Development Manager, Karie Bounds at community@nationaltrust.org.ky.

Membership to the Trust comes with many local perks and even offers discounts and admission into National Trust properties in participating countries across the World. The membership fees allow the Trust to manage and maintain nine different environmental reserves. The Trust also offers corporate sponsorships and partnerships to aid in cultural, educational, conservation and environmental initiatives.

For more information on programs, membership and upcoming events, visit the National Trust for the Cayman Islands website.

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The calming sound of steady waves. The refreshing feeling of the ocean breeze. The warm sun reflecting off of the clear blue water. Sitting on the white, sandy beaches of Seven Mile Beach is one of my favorite things to do when I'm on the island—it's so relaxing!

But because I spend most of my time working around the clock, it can be somewhat difficult to switch off. Even when I'm in vacation mode, it's hard for me to stop on a dime because I'm used to going 90 miles per hour.

So, as relaxing as the beach is, I need something to help occupy my mind while I'm taking in the sights and sounds of the Caribbean. Last time I visited Christopher Columbus Condos, I brought along several book options and learned a few things about beach reading that I wanted to share for your next trip to the island.

1. Bring Sunglasses

This may seem obvious, but when you settle into your favorite spot on the beach, spread out your belongings, and open up your book, you'll soon realize that you need some shades.

Even if you're under a cool, shady cabana, the sun will find a way into your eyes—the ocean is known for reflecting that glistening sunshine. After I broke my only pair of sunglasses, my beach reading experience was all but over.

If you're in need of a new pair of sunglasses, I found a good selection at Cost U Less, which is only a few minutes down Esterley Tibbets Highway from the condos. I bought two pairs to be safe and raced back to the beach.

2. Apply Sunscreen, Then Read

If you're under a cabana, the sun may not be an issue, but if you plan on reading on the beach for more than 20 minutes, be sure to apply sunscreen BEFORE you settle in.

There's nothing worse than getting sunscreen all over your book—except maybe a severe sunburn.

3. Bring More Than One Book

When I'm at home, I tend to read for 20-30 minutes a few times per week, so it takes me a long time to finish a book. This is not the case when you’re beach reading!

I flew through my first book and didn't have a backup.

My wife, on the other hand, brought three books along and read over 1,000 pages. Unlike me, she knew what she was doing. But if you do find yourself in need of a good book, the next two tips have you covered.

4. Visit a Local Bookstore

If you came to the island without a book or cruised right through the only book you had on hand, you could always visit a local bookstore. My favorite was the Book Loft at the local Humane Society.

Not only will you find a great selection of used books for your beach reading adventure, but you’ll also be supporting precious animals in need on the island. Buy some great books AND support cute animals? Yes, please!

5. Try Audiobooks Instead

Remember how I raced through my book and didn't have anything left to read? Well, one of my vacation buddies told me to try an Audiobook instead.

My first reaction was, "But I won't be able to hear the ocean."

His response was awesome, "Yeah, but you'll be able to see it instead."

While you're reading your book, you can only see your pages, and you can see those at home, right? You came to an island for the breathtaking views and audiobooks allow you to take it all in while you listen to an excellent book.

Best of all, if you have a problem concentrating on your book when other people are around you, an audiobook will cover up those sounds as well.

Even better than that, if you've never used Audible, you can get a free trial here and download two free audiobooks. If you have a local library, download Overdrive and check out ebooks and audiobooks for free before you leave for vacation.

6. Bring Earbuds or Earplugs

If you're an early riser and get out to the beach early, you're going to find peace and quiet. You'll be able to relax while you listen to the gentle waves and chirping birds.

But as the day moves on, more people will make their way out onto the sand.

Some people can tune out the chit chat of other beach goers, but I'm not one of those people. Luckily I had earbuds, Spotify, and WiFi access courtesy of Christopher Columbus Condos.

7. Waterproof Everything

Whether it's a hardback book, e-reader, or a smartphone, it's always a good idea to waterproof everything that you can.

You never know when you might drop your book or spill your favorite cocktail, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry. You can make DIY book covers or buy waterproof cases for your phone or e-reader on Amazon.

Soak It In and Enjoy!

So, there you have it—a few lessons I learned the hard way. If you're planning to do some serious beach reading on your next trip, following these tips is going to make an amazing experience even better.

Did I miss any tips you've picked up in your travels? Drop them in the comments below. I'd love to hear them.

Enjoy!

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This post was written with traditional honeymooners in mind, but we'd like to think that we all need a little "honeymooning" in our life. Yea, we just made that a verb! So whether you're planning your first vacation as a married couple, you've been married 25 years or you're enjoying the single life this post has a little something for anyone looking to enjoy the romance that is life. Now let's set the stage!

It’s just the two of you now, ready to start your life of new adventures together and the first adventure is a big one. That’s right, the honeymoon. Before you get in the car and drive or board an airplane, you have to decide where your honeymoon destination will be.

You could choose big city, small country or even Disney, but we sincerely believe your best option is grand beach. Specifically, Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman island.

With stunning beachfront views, crystal clear water and some of the best scuba diving spots in the world, Grand Cayman is the perfect backdrop for a romantic and adventurous honeymoon.

The Cozy Stay

Christopher Columbus Condos on Seven Mile Beach has 30 intimate units to choose from including 16 Ocean View and 4 Ocean View Penthouse units. Each unit includes a fully equipped kitchen for those who like to stay in and cook (for those who prefer to go out to eat, keep reading) and an open concept living room. The entire property also offers free WiFi and provides beach towels so you don’t have to worry about packing your own. To make your stay even homier our beloved Christopher Columbus staff is on site Monday-Saturday to accommodate all of your needs including daily housekeeping services.

With only 30 units the property is quiet, peaceful, and there's plenty of room on our large beach.

Speaking of beaches...

The Private Beach

One of our favorite spots to hang out on the entire property is of course our beach backyard! While on the beach you and your new spouse can relax under one of our 13 thatched huts and read a book, take a nap or:

  • Go snorkeling
  • Swim in the pool or ocean
  • Stand Up Paddleboard
  • Swing under a hut
  • Play bocce ball and so much more

The Food

Food is a basic necessity for survival. Amazing food is found in Cayman. In addition to traditional Caymanian cuisine, restaurants on the island offer Caribbean, European, Farm-to-Table and Mexican to name a few varieties. Check out this list of some of our favorite lunch spots to get your culinary adventure started.

The Memories to Make

After hearing about our private beach we wouldn’t judge you one bit if you and your new spouse relaxed on the beach or poolside everyday of your stay. However, if you do feel like seeing more of what our beautiful island has to offer we have a few suggestions for where to begin.

The Photo Opps

Honeymooning at Christopher Columbus is sure to leave you and your special someone with some amazing memories that you will cherish forever. If you’re wondering how it can get any better let’s talk about photo opportunities and the FOMO your family and friends are sure to have after seeing all your pictures.

Lover’s Wall

Lover’s Wall is a brick wall located along the East End on Sea View Road on the way to the Blowholes. It's red heart sign is the perfect spot for newlyweds to snap a keeper to frame later.

Sunsets

Picking a favorite Cayman sunset is just as wrong as picking a favorite child. The good news for honeymooners like yourselves, is a gorgeous sunset fills the sky every night creating a breathtaking backdrop for honeymoon photos. The unique lighting can also create a romantic silhouette shot.

CaymanKind

Finally, something we are 100% certain no other honeymoon destination will have. The kind, warm and inviting charisma from Cayman residents. They are delighted to share their love of the island and you'll be delighted you chose to honeymoon in Cayman.

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Countdown to Cayman

One of our very favorite comments to see guests post on social media, is “30 more days” or insert just about any number in the quotes! (Meaning 30 or however many more days until you and your family or friends get to join us at Christopher Columbus Condos.)

We love these comments because we know it means you're so excited that you're literally counting down the days. And we don’t blame you. Grand Cayman is the best place in the entire world. Although, we may be just a little biased. ;)

So, whether you are about to make your first trip to visit us or you are coming back for the 5th time, we thought it would be nice to share a few creative ways to countdown to Cayman and build on the excitement.

Craft time!


  1. Make a Dry Erase Sign

Print out a sign with any words you want and put in a glass frame! Grab a dry erase marker and update the number everyday.

Download our PDF here


   
spotify island playlist
  2. Create Your Own Pineapple Countdown

A tropical twist on a classic construction paper craft. You'll need scissors, a pencil, tape and of course, construction paper. Take off a ring each day, and when it's gone it's time to go to the beach!

Get Instructions


     

  3. Eat One Treat a Day

This idea is both delicious and helpful for kids to see how much time has passed and how much is left before your big trip! Fill up a jar with whichever candy or snack you choose. With each day that passes by eat one piece of the snack inside until the day you leave for your Cayman Vacation!

Download the Printable

     

  4. Download a Countdown App on Your Phone

There are a ton of options for both Android and iPhone users to download an app and carry their countdown to Cayman reminder with them wherever they go! We like the Dreamdays (iPhone app & Android app) because you can customize your event background with your own photos. (You can also use backgrounds provided with the app for 99¢.)

If you use any of the ideas above or if you've done something else to countdown to Cayman we would love to see it! Use the hashtag #loveccc and #countdowntocayman and we may feature your post on the Christopher Columbus Condos social media pages!

Hopefully these tips add extra excitement before your trip, and if you don't already have a trip planned get to planning over on our Availability and Rates page!

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Cayman is for the KIDS!
I think it’s fair to say that most adults who get even a small glimpse of Cayman’s magnificent views and vast ocean want to immediately book their next vacation here.

The big question: is it a good destination for both the adults AND the kids? You better believe it.

If you need more convincing than just me saying so, (I’m not sure why you would ;)) here are 5 reasons your kids will love vacationing in Cayman just as much as you.

1. Christopher Columbus Condos Kiddie Pool

Let’s start real close to home, shall we? With our zero-entry kiddie pool even your littlest ones can take a safe dip in the water. The small pool is conveniently located between the gazebo and larger pool, not to mention in a prime location right next to the toy chest we like to keep stocked for our pint-sized friends. 

2. Cayman Turtle Centre

If the kids in your family love animals, the Cayman Turtle Centre is a must-visit attraction! This centre is both entertaining as well as informative with the Education Centre teaching about turtles and their history in Grand Cayman. Even better, if you happen to visit during breeding season (May-October) you just might witness a new hatchling coming up through the sand of their incubation boxes!

Of course, the most popular experience for kids at the Turtle Centre is the Touch Tank Wading Pools. In these special pools, your kids can get in the shallow tank with the turtles and briefly pick them up! Talk about a perfect photo opp.

3. Atlantis Submarine Dive

Most activities in Cayman will include water for obvious reasons, and although this example is no exception, you will stay completely dry! Speaking from personal experience, the Atlantis Submarine Dive is a great way to explore all the mystery and beauty that lives underwater. The Atlantis tour is also a great alternative to scuba diving if you have children that are too young or apprehensive. The submarine is pressurized so there is no discomfort and the crew follows a list of safety procedures. Submarine dives are also offered both day and night.

Read more about Atlantis Submarines Tours

4​Stingray City

Don't let the name scare you. These Stingrays are incredibly friendly and love visitors. Especially visitors that bring food! Arguably the most popular attraction on the island, Stingray City is a one-of-a-kind way for you and your kids to get up close with Stingrays in their natural habitat. You can reach down to pet their soft skin as they swim by and feed them. Many catamaran tours visit Stingray City and take your picture with one of the local stingrays!

5. Paddle boarding
Another activity that can be enjoyed on the CCC beachfront is Stand Up paddle boarding, a.k.a SUP. This activity could take a little trial and error for those who struggle with staying balanced, but still provides a ton of fun. Many SUP rentals in Grand Cayman will also deliver the boards to Christopher Columbus and pick them up when you're done. 

If you imagined your kids taking part in any or all of these island activities then your family vacation planning is already halfway complete. Oh, and if you need a place to stay we've got you covered there too! 
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Swimming with the Dolphins

If I had to guess I’d say most people have a “bucket list” of some kind. You know, that list of things you want to do or see and places you want to go before you die? My personal bucket list has varied a little bit here and there over the years, but one thing that has been at the top for as far back as I can remember was to swim with dolphins. I’m not exactly sure when the desire began, but I think it was a result of seeing characters in a T.V. show or movie. From that moment on I was hooked on the concept.

This past November while visiting the Cayman Islands for the very first time I finally got to cross this major item off my bucket list! A few days before the big day "Dolphin Day," I called Dolphin Discovery to make the reservation. *Before you do this be sure to talk to CCC’s wonderful concierge Georgette to see if she can hook you up with a discounted rate. ;)

We arrived on the island on Thursday and my reservation wasn’t until the following Tuesday afternoon. Every day we were in Cayman I had a new amazing experience, but I was still most looking forward to swimming with the dolphins.

When the day finally arrived I showed up not quite knowing what to expect but excited! Fortunately, my appointment was at the end of the day so while most encounters are in groups I got the dolphins all to myself!

After putting on my life jacket, I was greeted by a worker and escorted to the water where the trainer Ernesto and two male dolphins Cappie and Capirnico were waiting. Ernesto began explaining a bit about what makes dolphins unique and the work that Dolphin Discovery does training and helping to conserve dolphin life.

My first interaction with the dolphins was to pet them as they swam by. They were so soft and docile, I was immediately comfortable being around them.

Throughout my half an hour interaction I clapped, danced, splashed, kissed and hugged my new friends Cappie and Capirnico and finally towards the end the moment I had been waiting for came. I swam across the water to the other side of the pool and put my arms at each side as the dolphins swept me up and I rode across the water holding on to a dorsal fin in each hand! 

My experience at Dolphin Discovery was amazing and it was so great to finally get that bucket list item checked off. Although... I wouldn't be opposed to doing the whole thing all over again! 

A few interesting facts I learned about dolphins:

  1. Dolphins are so soft because they shed their skin every 2 hours!
  2. Dorsal fins located on the top of the dolphins have distinctive nicks and wear patterns that are unique to individual dolphins, just like a human fingerprint.
  3. Dolphins swim with their tails moving in an up and down motion, while sharks swim from side to side.

Tips for first timers:

  1. Bring your own beach towel to dry off after your swimming adventure.
  2. Dolphin Discovery does let you bring your own camera so someone in your group who is not swimming can capture all the memorable moments. However, they don't let you get super close because they provide a professional photographer who takes posed and candid pictures the entire time, too. You can view and choose your favorite images to purchase before you leave.
  3. If you brought a change of clothes or other personal items with you, lockers are provided free of charge.
  4. There are several different encounter packages to choose from based on the dolphin experience you want. Click here to find the best option for you and your group:  http://www.dolphindiscovery.com/grand-cayman/cayman-deals.asp  
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When planning my recent trip to Grand Cayman, other than remembering my passport and sunblock, the most important item on my check list was to schedule an unforgettable dive experience. Something extraordinary that would carry me through the long, cold winter that was waiting for me on my return home to the States. I knew that Grand Cayman was already recognized as being one of the absolute best diving destinations on the planet, so I certainly had that going for me. However the biggest question was which diving operation to hire. So, after Googling “best dive operations in Grand Cayman” (which left me no shortage of options) I started the interview process!

After a few nondescript calls, I struck gold with Living the Dream (LTD) Divers. Within the first few minutes of my conversation with Liz (one of the owners), I could clearly sense that there was something really unique and special about her operation. She seemed to be more excited than I was, and was going to do whatever she could to make it memorable. After sorting out the logistics, we decided on a two tank dive for the following day at noon. As advertised, Scotty showed up at Christopher Columbus Condos right on schedule in the brightly wrapped LTD van. Immediately he welcomed me in his thick British accent and within 5 minutes we were telling jokes and poking great fun at each other. He also shared intriguing stories of his diving adventures all over the world as a PADI Master Scuba Instructor. It became very apparent that Scotty loved his job, but more than that, he seemed to be genuinely happy doing it. I later learned that Scotty’s nickname is “Happy”, which was certainly appropriate.

Within 10 minutes, we arrived at the dock where I was immediately greeted by “Captain” Carl. Like Scotty, Carl is super friendly and welcoming with his British wit and demeanor. And like Scotty, he is a 10 year PADI professional that has traveled all over the world. He started with a quick tour of our boat, which was clearly the nicest dive boat I had ever boarded. He pointed out that it was custom built for Living the Dream Divers down to the smallest detail. Before we launched to our first destination, Carl gave us a very thorough safety briefing and made it crystal clear that our safety was his top priority. Our first dive spot was along the North Sound wall of the Island which is called Eagle Ray Pass. It was a spectacular choice. Along the wall are a series of canyons that eventually feed to a sheer drop off point into the deep blue abyss. As I descended to a maximum depth of 102 feet, the area was teaming with marine life such as sea turtles, eels and lobsters. With Carl in the lead, he took the time to educate our group by pointing out creatures and plants that I would have certainly missed otherwise. It was a great education. After a brief rest and a snack, we were on to our second destination. We motored around to the northwest side of the island not too far from Seven Mile Beach and Christopher Columbus Condos. Our next dive spot was “Bonnie’s Arch,” named after a famous Cayman photographer Bonnie Charles.

Bonnie’s Arch was a great choice for many reasons. Not only was it a more appropriate depth (50ft) for our second dive, but it was a really unique natural structure that was well decorated with magnificent sponge and coral. Teams of fish like parrotfish, squirrelfish, and snapper shared their home with us, as a hungry sea turtle grazed his way along reef. We spent the next 45 minutes or so just relaxing and trying to blend in among the magnificent world of blue and vibrant colors. After we surfaced and unloaded our gear on the boat, Carl was kind enough to put back on his professor hat. On the journey back, he was very eager to discuss and unpack all that we had just experienced. Once we returned to the dock, he more than thanked us for being part of his day and allowing him to “Live his dream” of diving in Grand Cayman.

As a business owner myself, I am constantly in “evaluation mode” when it comes to studying organizations and their ability to deliver. LTD Divers have accomplished something that is rare in the business world. They have developed a clear vision for their entire team and a culture of ownership from top to bottom. Not only do they have fun with their vocation each and every day, but they are grateful for the opportunity to share it with others. I would highly recommend Living The Dream Divers to anyone looking for a first class diving experience in Grand Cayman, and look forward to seeing them again on my next trip to Christopher Columbus Condos!

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Options with Your Own Phone

When traveling to a foreign country, I always get a little nervous about whether or not I will be able to use my phone, and if I am able to use my phone I worry about how much it will cost me. I've heard enough crazy phone bill stories and had a couple of my own unsightly bills to know to at least check out my options when using my smartphone in new countries.

The Cayman Islands is a well developed country that has two reliable cell phone network providers: Digicel and LIME. If you want to use your phone while on the island call your provider so that they can turn on international roaming for you and your phone should work while you're on Grand Cayman Island. Before you start using your phone make sure to read our recommendations below to avoid costly bills!

Airplane Mode and Wi-Fi are the Safest Bets

If you don't plan on signing up for special international rates then I recommend putting your smartphone in airplane mode to avoid data charges and keeping it in airplane mode unless you are connecting to Wi-Fi. (Your phone can be using data even when you think you're not using it. I recommend airplane mode because it ensures that you're not using data even if you accidentally leave an application open or are set up to receive push notifications. ) Even if you do sign up for special rates with your provider it's a good idea to use airplane mode when you're not using your phone because data usage can rack up quickly.

Wi-Fi Connections

Christopher Columbus Condos has a reliable Wi-Fi connection for guests, so you can easily login to the connection and access the internet from your smartphone to check social media, send emails, use applications and more without using data. I recommend connecting to the Wi-Fi and using Pandora to play the perfect island tunes! The connection will even reach many of the huts on the beach!

Many restaurants and other places in Cayman offer free Wi-Fi, too. Just ask an employee to see if they offer this service to their customers. We used Wi-Fi at Da Fish Shack, La Dolce Vita, Rum Point and Camana Bay. Camana Bay is awesome because they offer a free public Wi-Fi connection throughout the entire center, so you can walk around enjoying their beautiful corridors and post amazing photos on Instagram or Facebook for friends and family to enjoy at home without the worry of using expensive data.

Call Your Carrier for International Bundle Options

Before you board your plane for Cayman you can call your carrier to see if they offer special international rates for using your phone in Cayman. My carrier offered the option to buy a certain amount of international data, texts and minutes at a discounted rate. On my first trip to Cayman I purchased a couple of these bundles, but ended up going over on my data because I had no idea how much data I was using, so I ended up with a pricey phone bill that month. On my second trip to Cayman, I opted to go without any of my carrier's international services and instead used the trusty airplane mode to make sure I wasn't using any expensive data, and I connected to Wi-Fi when I had the chance to communicate with friends and family at home. Just remember to always use airplane mode when you're not connected to Wi-Fi.

Use a Cayman SIM Card in Your Phone

You can also purchase a Cayman SIM card (from LIME or Digicel), switch it out with your own SIM and pre-pay for minutes to use your phone as a Caymanian would. The great thing about pre-paying for minutes is that you always know what you're spending. Also, rates on minutes, data and messaging are much cheaper with a local SIM card. However, in order to use a local SIM card in your phone you'll need an un-locked GSM capable phone. If you are under contract with a provider then you are likely not eligible to have your phone un-locked. If your contract is up and you are eligible there is still usually a process you have to undergo to get your phone unlocked, so call your current provider for details. If you already have an un-locked phone then you are in luck, and this may be your best option, but keep in mind the new SIM will have a different phone number. Call LIME or Digicel for details on purchasing a local SIM if this option makes the most sense for you and after confirming you have an unlocked phone with your home network provider.

Cayman Phones & Pre-paid Plans 

If you're under contract with a locked phone, but still want the freedom of using your phone on the island anytime, anywhere then there is always the option of straight up buying a new unlocked phone before you leave or buying one on the island and then purchasing a pre-pay plan with LIME or Digicel. If you want to use a smartphone though the new phone will be a somewhat expensive investment, and of course it won't be the phone you're used to. Keep in mind you'll also have a different number with your new phone. However, if you plan to make several repeat trips or long trips to Cayman this may make sense for you. You can call LIME at (345) 949-7800 or visit one of their locations while on the island for more information. You can also call Digicel at (345) 623-3444 or visit one of their locations for more information on their plans and phones.

Another option, if you aren't concerned about using a smartphone at all, would be to buy a cheap phone that isn't data enabled and then buy a local SIM card with pre-pay plans for calling and texting.

Land-line Options at the Condos

The land-line phones in the rooms at Christopher Columbus Condos may also serve as a supplement. All local calls on the island are free from your room, and if you only need to make a couple of calls on the trip you could also call collect internationally. A quick heads up, though, most United States or foreign calling cards do not work from the island, so we recommend leaving them at home.

My Top Recommendation

When I personally travel to Cayman, I go the easiest, cheapest route of all and just put my smartphone in airplane mode and then pop it out of airplane mode and into Wi-Fi when a connection is available. When connected to Wi-Fi I can use all my apps (like Facebook, Instagram and Pandora), email, Skype and more without racking up any data charges. The biggest drawback for going this route is not being able to use my phone on the go especially for maps and navigation. If you decide to go the airplane mode/Wi-Fi route with your phone, I'd recommend taking screen shots of directions before leaving the condos (and Wi-Fi connection) and grabbing an island map from the office. If nothing else it will lead to a navigational adventure, and will give you a taste of simpler times before cell phones existed which can actually be pretty liberating. Kind of sounds like a vacation right? ;)

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