ith only two weeks left before the end of my maternity leave (cue: tears) we decided last minute to get out of the city for a quick beach getaway with the girls. I've been reading numerous positive reviews of how kid-friendly the ritz Carlton in grand cayman was and thought we should give it a shot especially since we've never been to the Cayman Islands.
Flying from JFK on jetblue, It was a quick 3 hour and 15 min flight time which is ideal when traveling with a toddler and baby. We lucked out with an empty row (hello!) so it was smooth sailing from takeoff to touchdown. Deplaning at Arrival required a bit of handling since there's no gateway - it's an old school staircase onto the tarmac and then walking to arrivals / customs. Because we carry-on our luggage (yep, even with 2 kids) having a bjorn and a walking toddler was efficient and fortunately the jetblue staff was equally helpful in giving us a hand down the stairwell.
Travel tip: on a previous flight to Dallas, virgin airlines broke our umbrella stroller. As a replacement, we looked at umbrella strollers for newborns and landed on a mclaren quest with a universal boogie board attachment that fit the bill perfectly. Granted no car seat this time around but we knew we'd be mostly resort bound and not driving much for this trip. It worked out really well for us. All about traveling lighter and smarter!
The resort: nice big property with two main buildings connected by a bridge on the 3rd floor. There are 2 resort pools, one Oceanside and another on the resort side. In addition to being near the main lobby, the Resort side pool is next to Anidiamo (Italian restaurant) and starfish cay (kids water playground) and the basketball courts. Nearby is the kids environment ambassador club where there's plenty of family and kids programming to keep them busy. If you've got little ones who may never want to leave this area you may actually want a room resort side rather than Oceanside.
*resort tip: get a 3rd floor room close to the elevators if you're the type to drop by your room often. We were in 271 which was at the very end of the hall and having to get to our room was a bit of a trek even from the lobby.
The pool by the ocean is a decent size and is a few steps from the ocean. Both pool and ocean have plenty of chairs that are serviced by Bar Jacks which is your typical poolside eats of grilled foods and salads as well as your cold beers and frozen cocktails (I was a big fan of the shrimp quesadilla and Cuban colada!). Though both pools run about 4 1/2 ft in the shallow end, life vests and some pool/beach toys are available for toddlers and up.
he beach is fairly shallow and there are a variety of activities to partake in. Our crew was too young for these activities so hubby and I traded off in taking our 18 month old, winter, to swim or play while Nyla chilled, ate, or slept.
Food: all the restaurants were fairly decent.
The breakfast buffet at Seven is good and pricey (~$40/pp) but was included with our room. If it wasn't, I am pretty sure we would have gone to a local restaurant instead to get more bang for our buck. We also had dinner at Seven but didn't have anything that stood out except for the bread (ugh soo good and warm). Service at both meal times was prompt and courteous and accommodated us easily with high chair and a spot for our stroller.
Bar jacks by the pool was good and had we been there for more days, it's a place we'd most likely return to.
In room dining: decently good. Shrimp quesadilla wasn't exactly up to par with the one at bar jacks but it was fine. A little detail I appreciated - they tell you when your order is ready (approx 30 min) by noting aloud what time the order is taken and what time you should expect it at your door. I also believe you can order from any of the restaurants because hubby wanted key lime pie from seven and they made it happen. I had the Creme brûlée and it was delicious
Sushi restaurant: I guess this a popular spot because no walkins were being taken due to capacity so reserve ahead of time. However they will serve you same menu in the lobby lounge which is what we opted to do. Unfortunately this was the worst experience ever. We sat and waited for 2 basic rolls and kids meal for over an hour. It was really unbelievable as we saw other folk who arrived after us get their food. And with a restless toddler in tow, you can imagine how challenging this could be. the manager was hard to find and our poor waiter who was transferred onto to our table mid-wait could see my anger and frustration and took it upon himself to comp our meal because even he had a hard time tracking the manager. I'm not a sushi person but the hubby said it was quite good and he would have ordered more if it wasn't for the crazy wait and lack of attention.
Starfish cay. Winter did not want to leave. She loved just playing in the fountains and splashing on the ground. Though it's better suited for those over 36" tall to ride the mini slides, younger ones will be just as entertained with the various sprinklers, fountains and overall watery aura of this playground.
Because it was a short trip we didn't get off the property much. Dining alone is a pretty penny so hit up local restaurants if you're trying to save.
TIP: Whenever we travel we take concierge suggestions but we also ask the day to day staff (waiters, housekeeping, taxi drivers, etc) where THEY eat. It always gives us a peek into the local non-touristy life of a place and we always come back with stories and full, happy tummies.
We are at Catch and champion house on this trip. Champion house was definitely a local spot but one that everyone we spoke to recommended. Hubby had the oxtail and I had BBQ chicken which was delicious. Oxtail was "ok" according to him. There's no AC so be prepared if you come on a smoldering day (or order takeout and bring it to the beach or back to your hotel). Catch was our brunch outing and is a fairly newish restaurant. it was really good and a nice recommendation from our concierge. Both hubby and I really loved everything we had and would have come back if we were staying longer. There are interior and exterior seating which is nice if you get hit with a rainstorm. You can still eat overlooking the water.
Our one excursion was to the turtle farm. We figured this was toddler friendly and it is for the most part. I would stick to the turtle section and skip the "water park" - it's literally a bunch of tanks where you can see these amazingly huge turtles and in one part even "catch" them and hold them up. Children under 5 are not recommended to touch or handle the turtles because of bacteria their immune systems may not be developed enough to tackle. I'd recommend bringing your own hand sanitizer though. It was a cute excursion but it was getting hot and barely any shade so we were in and out in less than an hour. They provide a free shuttle between several hotels and the park at certain times though the staff is pretty flexible and took us and another family back early.
All in all, this trip was exactly what we had planned it out to be. A quick infant-friendly island getaway for some R&R. I recommend the ritz especially for families and the cayman islands for its direct-flight proximity to nyc. On the island, everyone speaks English, takes US dollars (though there is cayman currency) and for the most part very friendly! Small (or big if you like your spirits) thing to note is that Sunday is dry on the island so no alcohol is served/sold Sunday morning (?) so keep in mind if you were on the hunt for a raging brunch day party. Happy travels!